A pilot project, recently launched in Uganda, aims to demonstrate more cost-efficient ways in which both electricity and ICT can be brought to rural areas. It comes at a time of renewed growth for the country’s telecoms sector.
According to Uganda’s PML Daily, the National Information Technology Authority-Uganda (NITA-U) together with the Uganda Communication Commission (UCC) (through its Rural Communication Development Fund (RCDF)), the Rural Electrification Agency (REA), optical connectivity solutions business Corning Optical Communications and network equipment company ADVA SE, have launched the pilot phase of the Electricity and Fibre to The Village (EFTTV) project in Buhesi sub-county in Bunyangabu district in the country’s Western Region.
The participants say that the EFTTV project leverages infrastructure sharing to exploit the cost synergies of simultaneously rolling out the grid and fibre while ensuring the productive use of electricity and broadband internet through the deployment of an ICT ecosystem in the village.
Among the advantages of this approach cited by the project partners is that simultaneously deploying the grid with aerial optical fibre apparently offers a cost saving of up to 40 per cent, largely from sharing rights of way and civil works.
The four sites involved, which include a school, a health centre and two administrative buildings, will receive unlimited broadband connectivity from NITA-U, as well as training on the selected e-applications. They will also take part in a monitoring and evaluation exercise to determine the impact of the intervention on their productivity.
This news comes at a time when a third quarter market research report for 2020, just published by the UCC, has posted a number of positive figures for the telecommunications market, including a 15 per cent recovery with 1.1 trillion Ugandan shillings (about $297.3 million) in revenues for July-September 2020.
This the report says, has been achieved largely on the back of improved demand for voice and digital financial services, as well as what seems to be a new normalised level of demand for broadband services that is higher than pre-Covid levels.
This apparent bounce in demand is underlined by the industry posting more than one million new mobile subscriptions in the months July to September 2020. The market topped 26.5 million fixed and cellular subscriptions, equalling the pre-Covid subscriber count of December 2019.
In addition the report says that at the end of September 2020 total internet subscriptions had for the first time in industry history crossed the 20 million mark. This translates into an internet connection for one in every two Ugandans.