When you walk around the City of Kigali and different parts of the country, you are likely to see small red and white poles on the road side with a mark “Fibre Optic”.
Some of these poles are very close to homes, trading centres and offices. Others are at a distance.
To many Rwandans, the common understanding is that the poles represent Fibre internet connectivity.
Indeed, Rwanda has laid over 3,000km of a $130 million fiber optic network with 4G LTE connectivity, covering 95% of the country.
But currently, most talk among people do not include the possibility of connecting this internet to homes. Rather, they think, it is an infrastructure which only intends to connect a district office, a hospital in the area, schools and other public buildings.
“I don’t think this internet can reach homes. The only way I think this can be possible is through owning a modem or a handset in your house,” said Sam Mugisha a student at Mount Kenya University in Rwanda.
But how possible is it to connect internet to everyone’s home?
In 2015, Liquid Telecom – a multinational telecom company announced plans to connect over 8,000 households in the capital Kigali with fibre network.
Speaking to KT Press recently, Eng. Sam Nkusi – Group Executive for Liquid Telecom said the plan has been expanded.
“Our plan is to connect over 20,000 offices and buildings around the country,” he said.
Korea Telecom Rwanda Networks (KtRN) Ltd is the only 4G LTE infrastructure company in Rwanda licensed for wholesale of universal mobile broadband network in Rwanda using 4G LTE technologies.
Other telecom companies and internet service providers buy from KtRN 4GLTE internet and retail it. There is also 3G internet which Rwandans have enjoyed for some years now.
Didas Ndoli – a senior manager in the commercial department at MTN Rwanda –a telecom company that provides both 3&4G internet with also a fibre optic infrastructure told KT Press, “Internet provision in homes is part of our major business.”
Ndoli said that any Rwandan in every part of the country can be connected to internet at home – just like one can be subscribed to a TV decoder.
There are two options to get connected; through a network antenna placed on a house and fibre cable directly connected to a house.
Once accessible at your house, you can chose a convenient mode of consumption and there are two ways; you can choose the model of fixed internet or fixed data, or a model of mobile internet.
With mobile internet, Ndoli says, “You can tether your internet to others in the house or buy a router and place it in the house.”
A router is a networking device that forwards data packets between computer networks. Routers perform the traffic directing functions on the Internet using a sim card.
In the case of fixed or data internet, a customer buys subscription and an antenna is placed on the roof of the house, to serve only that house.
According to Ndoli, “We do point-to-point for houses. It means that if you want internet in your home, we just connect an antenna to your house and you start using internet right away,” he said.
Ndoli explains that MTN has antennas at Jali and Rebero hills as well as towers in different parts of the country.
“All these antennas are plugged on a Fibre Optic network. The wireless bit of it is just the distance from the main tower to your antenna,” Ndoli told KT Press.
“This means that if we put an antenna at your house in Kibagabaga, it picks signal from the towers in Remera. It doesn’t need to physically connect straight to the fibre optic line.”
According to Ndoli, if you want a fibre-rooted internet in your home, it depends on how close your house is located to the transmission line. For this particular internet, a customer is required to pay Rwf50, 000 to have an antenna installed at the house.
For an estate, for example, MTN uses Asymmetric digital subscriber line (ADSL) – a technology that enables a joint faster data transmission.
“For real estates, we set 10 Megabytes per ADSL box that serves 10 houses, that means if all are connected atleast each house will be guaranteed of minimum 1 Megabyte worth Rwf30,000,” said Ndoli.
According to Ndoli, the one MB depends of the size of consumption. For example, he said, “We have packages for Small and Medium entreprises and corporate organisations. Normally packages range from Rwf88, 000 to Rwf150, 000 per month.”
If you want fibre to be connected to your business located separately from a settlement, the cost depends on the distance such as the cable that connects from the main breakpoint to the building.
But this is costly, Ndoli advises. It involves the cost of digging roadsides straight to the building. Even labor is costly, he says.