Only six percent of Africans have access to broadband internet access, making it the least connected continent. The result of this is that achieving the continent’s human and economic potential is a struggle. Fiber Optic cable is necessary to connect high speed internet to cellular towers that beam internet to the predominantly wireless users, and is also useful to connect businesses to good internet. But it doesn’t come cheap.
In order to deal with this problem of reliable broadband across Africa, Google started Project Link sometime back in 2011, something that would then get spun into a company, Csquared in 2013. Csquared’s task was to build world-class, high speed fiber networks in African cities and major towns.
This is shared wholesale infrastructure that is licensed to Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and Mobile Network Operators (MNOs)who don’t already have large investments in network infrastructure roll-out. The result is lowered installation and consumer costs.
As of today Kampala and Entebbe, and Accra, Tema and Kumasi have had over 800 and 840 km of fiber laid respectively in the two countries Uganda and Ghana. This has enabled over 25 ISPs and MNOs use this infrastructure to serve end users with broadband and 4G data. 1200 towers and commercial buildings have been connected as a result.
Naturally, Google, a company who’s business model is dependent on internet access to reach more customers will “continue to offer African users, companies and entrepreneurs an increasingly rich online experience and help them optimize their use of the Internet”.
This is what Google and three other partners Convergence Partners (a private equity company), International Finance Corporation (a member of World Bank) and Mitsui (an infrastructure trading company) put their weight onto with new investment. They have together put up capital commitments of USD 100 million for Csquared, the company that is headquartered in Nairobi.
It is not clear whether this means that Nairobi and other Kenyan cities will be next, but Csquared plans to roll out these operator-neutral networks in more African countries, something that’s subject to “customary closing conditions”.
[UPDATE] Csquared has no plans for Kenya, beyond the office. Their target is other countries that are less connected like Uganda, Ghana and others.