Rwanda completes $95 mln fibre optic network

A team of engineers lay fibre optic cables, as part of a government project to provide internet and telephone services, at Seredupi, 450 km (280 miles) north of the capital Nairobi, July 8, 2008. Picture taken on July 8, 2008. REUTERS/Antony Njuguna

KIGALI (Reuters) - Rwanda has completed construction of a 2,300 kilometre (1,380 miles) fibre optic telecommunications network across the country to link it to undersea cables running along the east African coast, the country’s communication minister said.

The project, which began in October 2009 at a cost of $95 million, was set up to boost access to various broadband services, boost electronic commerce and attract foreign direct investment through business process outsourcing.

“The fibre optic project will initially be operated by an independently-managed government entity on an open access model to accommodate infrastructure sharing with the private ICT services providers,” Ignace Gatare, the minister in charge of information and communication technology, told Reuters late on Tuesday.

“The ultimate goal is to progressively transfer the business to a private business.”

Although only about 12 percent of the population in the land-locked country has access to the Internet, the information and communication industry generated revenues of about 87 billion Rwandan francs in 2009, rising by 12 percent in 2010, the minister said, quoting provisional data.

The national fibre-optic network is already connected to the undersea cable system through two major regional links, including one from Mombasa in Kenya, through Uganda. It is also connected to another undersea cable from Dar es Salam.

“Initiatives to activate the links have been launched and discussions between Rwanda telecommunication operators that include MTN Rwanda, Tigo Rwanda and Rwandatel and regional cable operators are ongoing,” the minister said.