Cheap Broadband Google Fiber Comes To Kampala

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Written by Dana Sanchez

A new Google-installed fiber network for Kampala will allow up to 10 mobile carriers and Internet service providers to boost data rates 100-fold in the city of 3 million residents, according to MITtechnologyReview.

In what has been called one of its biggest moves so far in the business of providing Internet infrastructure, Google’s installation of a fiber-optic backbone will dramatically improve connectivity in Uganda, the report said.

Google’s logic is simple for pushing cheap broadband. The more people use the Internet, the more ads Google can sell – and that’s its core business.

Kampala’s new fiber-optic backbone connects cell towers to new fiber lines that connect to larger fiber networks and undersea cables.

Most of the fast access—up to two gigabits per second in some cases—is intended for mobile devices, but Internet service providers could also extend the fiber network directly into institutions like hospitals and universities, said Kai Wulff, access field director for the Google effort known as Project Link. “Our goal is to connect more people in Kampala to fast, quality Internet,” he said in MITtechnologyReview. He declined to say how much the fiber project cost the company.

Regardless of Google’s motives, the project should provide economic benefits for Ugandans, said Erik Hersman, director of iHub, a startup incubator in Nairobi, Kenya. Google’s strategy “seems to be to sell wholesale to the Internet service providers in Uganda for a lot less than they currently pay, hoping to spur a race to the bottom on data prices,” he said. “If they’re able to engineer a reduction in prices, that’s huge.”

The U.N. Broadband Commission says that for Internet use to increase in Africa, prices must be under $5 per month, the report said.

Google has no immediate plans to wire up other cities, Wulff said. It is focused on proving the business model in Kampala and encouraging other infrastructure providers to follow suit.

Facebook recently announced Internet.org, an industry coalition geared toward expanding Internet access and improving data transmission efficiency in areas that already have connectivity.

Technology companies including Google and Microsoft are experimenting with TV frequency white space to extend broadband access to far-flung areas that have no Internet connectivity at all – and that is the bigger challenge, MITtechnologyReview reported.