BUJUMBURA Jan 21 Burundi has officially
launched its $25 million investment project in a fibre-optic
cable network to widen access to broadband Internet and cut
The landlocked central African nation of 8 million people
has some of the slowest Internet speeds in the region after
decades of internal conflicts choked economic development.
President Pierre Nkurunziza told a launch ceremony that the
project, which is jointly owned by the government and four
private firms, was part of a plan to ensure all citizens have
access to the Internet by 2025.
World Bank research shows that a 10 percent increase in
broadband penetration can result in an extra 1.4 percentage
points of annual economic growth.
Some 1,000 km of the 1,250 km fibre-optic cable has already
been laid, covering nine out of the country's 17 provinces, the
project owners said on Tuesday.
The cable will be linked to undersea cables, connecting
Africa to the rest of the world, at Kenya's Mombasa port and the
Tanzanian port of Dar es Salaam.
The firms, Ucom, Econet Wireless, Africell, Cbinet
and the government-owned Onatel, expect download speeds to rise
to 2 Gigabyte per second in the next five years from 135
Megabytes per second three years ago, they said.
Burundi had about 500,000 Internet users last May, including
those using Internet on their mobile phones, said the country's
telecom regulator (ARCT).
Mobile phone usage has been growing rapidly with total
subscribers rising 17 percent to 2.24 million in 2012, the
latest available figures, from the previous year.
(Reporting by Patrick Nduwimana; Writing by Duncan Miriri;
Editing by Mark Potter)