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Burundi embarks on fibre optic to reduce high internet charges

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KIGALI, RWANDA - Internet users in Burundi are expected to pay less if the country's first fibre optic network fetches high-speed and low-cost internet through Rwanda and Tanzania early next year, an official has said.
Burundi, with the help of the World Bank (WB), is embarking on about 1,300-kilometres of fibre optic to cover all the 17 provinces, the capital Bujumbura and key borders with Tanzania and Rwanda.
Salvator Niyibizi, the Executive Secretary of the Executive Secretariat for Information and Communication Technologies (SETIC) in the Burundian Ministry of Transport, Posts and Telecommunications says completion of the first phase of the cable is expected in the first quarter of 2012.
This will see the so-called national backbone linked with similar infrastructure in Rwanda and Tanzania at the main border posts. Another phase will cover the provinces.
Rwanda has completed laying its national backbone covering 2,300 kilometres in the capital Kigali and main border posts while Tanzania continues to work on its national backbone infrastructure of more than 10,000 kilometres.
The Burundi backbone cable will be linked to that of Rwanda on two main entry points between the two countries.
One link will be in Bugesera, East of Rwanda while another one will be in South East of Rwanda at Akanyaru border post.  On the Tanzanian side, the link will be at Kobero, South of Burundi.
Tanzania has direct access to the submarine cables with international bandwidth while Rwanda gets connection through Uganda all the way from Mombasa, Kenya where one submarine cable has a landing point.
Burundi hopes to fetch connection from both sides but the most urgent and reliable one is that from Rwanda, according to sources.
Currently some traffic from Burundi goes via Rwanda through microwave while the rest is sent via satellite.
Once Burundi backbone is connected, it is expected to lower the cost of internet in the East African country, which depends heavily on expensive and slow age-old satellite connectivity.
Like in other East African countries, telecom operators in Burundi pay US$2,500-3,000 per Mbps (megabyte per second) per months for international bandwidth and this is expected to fall significantly with the fibre optic connectivity.
"We expect the cost of Internet to go down. Maybe it will not go down in the beginning but we expect it to go down up to 70% and above in the long-run," Mr. Niyibizi said in an interview in Kigali last Tuesday.
Mr. Niyibizi was speaking to the East African Business Week during the 18th Congress of the East African Communications Organisation (EACO) that concluded Friday last week in Kigali, Rwanda.
This is expected to ease doing business in Burundi as many companies, government and individuals continue to depend on the Iinternet a necessary communication and business tool.
EACO is an initiative of Communications Regulators, Broadcasters and National Posts Corporations in Burundi, Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.
Since end-2008, Burundi has embarked on the national backbone project with the support of US$10.5 million from the World Bank (WB).
Niyibizi said that the backbone project is a public-private partnership. It brings together the government and five telecom operators.
The consortium created a company known as Burundi Backbone Systems (BBS) to coordinate and follow up the implementation of the backbone project. The consortium used the WB money as an incentive.
ZTE, a Chinese company has been given the tender to lay the backbone cable.
The cable will be pure commercial and the shareholding operators will sell the Internet capacity to the final user. The government is also planning to do another fibre project for e-governance.
Burundi joins Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya in the quest to make a major shift from costly and slow satellite connectivity to cheap and faster fibre optic connectivity.
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Last Updated ( Monday, 30 May 2011 07:57 )  

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