Econet Group, a pan-African telecoms and technology group, has teamed up with X’s Project Taara to expand and enhance affordable, high speed connectivity to communities across Sub-Saharan Africa using a revolutionary new optical wireless technology developed by Taara, a project at X, Alphabet’s moonshot factory (formerly known as Google [x]).
Taara’s wireless optical communication links use beams of light to deliver high-speed, high-capacity connectivity over long distances.
In the same way traditional fibre uses light to carry data through cables in the ground, Taara uses light to transmit information at speeds as high as 20 gigabits per second as a very narrow, invisible beam. This beam is sent between two small Taara terminals to create a link.
Taara’s links offer fibre-like speed internet access in areas where it’s not economically viable, or too difficult to install fibre,for example, over rivers, sea straits, mountains, rugged terrains, across national parks, or in areas where it is unsafe to dig trenches for cables.
Fibre networks require backup links in order to provide 99.99 % availability. By delivering fibre-like speeds, Taara links offer an effective fibre backup solution where there is no other viable backup fibre route. Microwave and satellite backup are often not able to keep up with bandwidth demand for city to city links. Econet and Liquid Telecom will make the technology available to other telecoms customers, namely Mobile Networks and ISPs, but also National Research Education Networks.
Econet will deploy Taara’s technology in Africa across Liquid Telecom’s Fibre Optic Backbone and Mobile Network Infrastructure starting in Kenya. Econet’s Executive for New Enterprises, Norman Moyo said “This technology and our partnership with Taara forms an important building block towards realising our vision of a digitally connected future that leaves no African behind.”
Liquid Telecom and X have been running pilot tests of the technology in Kenya since 2019. This included testing across the waters between Mombasa Old Town and Diani in Kwale County, Kenya to bring high speed bandwidth to communities on the South Coast.
Like many coastal and regional areas, this area is attracting travellers looking to work remotely and require high speed internet connectivity. We hope this initiative will support efforts to revitalise local economies which rely heavily on tourism and have been negatively affected by international travel disruptions. Remote communities with high data demands which are not yet connected to fibre, also stand to benefit greatly from the enhanced data speeds.
Nic Rudnick Liquid Telecoms CEO said “Liquid Telecom has always been an early adopter of leading-edge technologies that support the Econet mission of using technology to empower Africans for economic prosperity. The trials we have conducted in Kenya have shown encouraging results of how we can reach new underserved areas with huge bandwidths as well as increase our network reliability. Every time we have connected a new country to our fibre network, our investment into middle mile infrastructure has enabled people outside of the major cities and towns, to enjoy high speed data”.
Taara’s links are an investment in the “middle mile” which The United Nations Broadband Commission defines as “the national backbone and intercity networks.” Econet hopes this technology will support the revitalization of economies which rely heavily on tourism, and have been negatively affected by international travel disruptions, and overall efforts to enable and accelerate growth.
“We are delighted to be working with Econet to provide high speed, abundant and affordable internet to more people in Sub Saharan Africa. The Taara team shares Econet’s vision of bringing about a more inclusive connected future that leaves no one behind. We look forward to working with Econet and its subsidiaries to help bring the transformative power of the internet to more communities in the region.” says Mahesh Krishnaswamy, Taara Project Lead at X, the Moonshot Factory.
This is the first roll-out of Taara’s technology in Africa.