Rwanda closes digital divide with launch of first ever satellite

APA - Kigali (Rwanda)

The latest launch of first ever satellite into low-earth orbit has been welcomed as an innovation aimed at extending broadband from urban areas further into remote regions where businesses, services and schools are starving for connectivity targeting undeserved remote rural communities.

At the stroke of midnight in February last year, OneWeb, aUK based global communications company, successfully sent its first satellite into low-earth orbit, one of which is has started to provide broadband internet to remote schools in Rwanda.

For this reason, Rwandan officials and other stakeholders hailed the launching of this first-ever Satellite into orbit as a pro-poor innovation and a better choice compared to existing fiber and 4G-LTE mobile infrastructure in remote areas or where the existing connectivity is slow to enable other services to undeserved communities.

"Increasing broadband connectivity has a direct impact on the economy and satellite is key to extending the reach of broadband access," said Paula Ingabire, Rwandan Minister of ICT and Innovation.

According to the senior Rwandan Government official, the satellite also represents a symbol of Rwanda's commitment to build the local space industry, build local capacity, inspire the younger generation and prepare to usher Rwanda into a hyper-connected future.

Currently Rwanda is ranked 133rd in the world for mobile speeds and 135th for fixed broadband speeds in November 2019, according to internet speed testing analysis firm, which owns Speed test application.

The Ministry of ICT and Innovation estimates that it would take about USD 2 billion to extend traditional fibre network to some remote rural areas such as Nkombo, one of the small densely populated island which is located on the Rwanda side of Lake Kivu in South Western Rwanda.

With the help of the new satellite that was launched in partnership with the Japanese Government, officials believe that the cost of internet connectivity will significantly be brought down.Rwanda's choice to invest in space technologies is part of its broader mission to bridge the digital divide by providing equal digital opportunities to rural and remote communities, said the minister.

Rwanda’s ICT blueprint dates back to late 90’s but major gains were made following the successful deployment of fiber backbone and access networks connecting all the 30 districts of the country in 2011.

However, yet various technologies – both wired and wireless– had been introduced in the country, the coverage was low and the services penetration limited to major cities, and to certain categories of users.

Estimates by the country's regulatory authority show that Internet penetration rate at national has since increased to 52.1 percent at the end of 2018 from 7.9 percent in 2010.

Rwanda has also rolled out a fiber optic backbone network whereby 92 percent of the country is covered by 3G network,while 96.6 percent is able to access 4G LTE coverage, it said.


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