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Bringing light-speed internet to Sub-Saharan Africa
November 10, 2020

Bringing light-speed internet to Sub-Saharan Africa

Project Taara is working with Econet Group and its subsidiaries to roll out wireless optical communication links across their network starting in Kenya

Written by Mahesh Krishnaswamy, General Manager, Project Taara at X

Connectivity is more important than ever. The pandemic sparked a dramatic shift in how we work, learn, and stay in touch with family and friends, and underscored just how important fast and affordable internet is to our daily lives. Studies show that meaningful connectivity is essential for economic growth and to fast track access to opportunity, yet almost 4 billion people around the world remain unconnected. Meanwhile, many more people still can’t afford a connection that is fast enough to join a video call, let alone attend school or work remotely.

At Project Taara, formerly known as The FSOC Project, we believe that the key to bridging the digital divide is to find new ways to deliver affordable high-speed internet connectivity. Taara is developing wireless optical communication technology that delivers high-speed, high-capacity connectivity over long distances using beams of light. Over the last few years we’ve been working with partners around the world to learn more about how Taara’s technology can be used to help expand and augment existing fiber networks and bring the benefits of broadband to communities that don’t yet have access to it.

Piloting Taara’s wireless optical communication links in Kenya

Today I’m pleased to share that Project Taara is now working with Econet and its subsidiaries, Liquid Telecom and Econet Group, to expand and enhance affordable, high-speed internet to communities across their networks in Sub-Saharan Africa. Taara’s links will begin rolling out across Liquid Telecom’s networks in Kenya first, and will help provide high speed connectivity in places where it’s challenging to lay fiber cables, or where deploying fiber might be too costly or dangerous — for example over rivers, across national parks, or in post-conflict zones. This is the first roll-out of Taara’s technology in Africa and follows a series of pilots in Kenya last year.

How does Taara work?

In the same way traditional fiber uses light to carry data through cables in the ground, Taara uses light to transmit information at very high speeds as a very narrow, invisible beam. This beam is sent between two small Taara terminals to create a link. A single Taara link can cover distances up to 20 km and can transmit bandwidth of up to 20 Gbps+ — that’s enough connectivity for thousands of people to be watching YouTube at the same time.

Taara uses beams of light to deliver high-speed, high-capacity connectivity over long distances. By creating a series of links from our partner’s fiber optic network over ground to underserved areas Taara’s links can relay high speed, high quality internet to people

By creating a series of links from our partner’s fiber optic network over ground to underserved areas, Taara’s links can relay high speed, high quality internet to people without the time, cost, and hassle involved in digging trenches or stringing cables along poles. It’s important that the signal between Taara’s terminals isn’t interrupted, so Taara’s units are placed high up on towers, poles or rooftops. Taara links offer a cost-effective and quickly deployable way to bring high-speed internet access to remote areas and help plug critical gaps to major access points, like cell towers and WiFi hotspots.

We look forward to supporting Econet Group as they bring the educational, business, and communication benefits of the web to customers in their networks. We also invite other internet service providers and mobile network operators who are interested in deploying Taara across their network to get in touch.

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