Fiber needs Africa

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Mobile phones are by far the cheapest and most popular option in Sub-Saharan Africa for connectivity. However, this is still just 24% of the population and even these users often must make do with poor service. This is because Cell towers can transmit a stronger and faster signal when served by fiber cable, but many of the cell towers in the region are too far from the fiber cable network, and so need to rely instead on satellites and microwaves for their reception. There is a great need for a fiber-optic cable network in Africa and the region is looking towards private sector investment to fund this costly initiative. Several companies such as Google is already working on such projects. Other than the fiber-optic network, there will also need to be innovative solutions to bring the network to the rural areas. For example, Huawei has successfully designed lightweight base stations with concrete free foundations that can be transported entirely on standard trucks and that use 4G technology to connect with the “donor site” as opposed to satellite and microwave to provide a cheaper and more reliable internet connection.

Even though the connectivity in Africa has dramatically increased over the decade, more work has to be done to make the continent more accessible to the world. The infrastructural challenge still remains, and it will be necessary for investments to be made to improve not just the quality of life but also the economic prospects of the continent’s population.