Econet 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 new optical wireless technology developed by Taara. This is the first roll-out of Taara’s technology in Africa.
Taara is a project at X, Alphabet’s moonshot factory (formerly known as Google [x]) which is working to bring affordable and abundant high-speed internet access to unconnected and under-connected areas and communities using an innovative approach to wireless optical communication technology. 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 says: “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.
Nic Rudnick, CEO of Liquid Telecoms, says: “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””.
“We are delighted to be working with Econet to provide high speed, abundant and affordable internet to more people in sub-Saharan Africa,” says Mahesh Krishnaswamy, Taara project lead at X, the Moonshot Factory. “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.”