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Ketraco and Liquid Telecom ink deal to
extend internet to East African region   

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- State-owned Kenya Electricity Transmission Company (Ketraco) and Liquid Telecom on Thursday signed an agreement to extend affordable internet connectivity services to Somalia, Ethiopia and Uganda.

Adil Youssefi, CEO of Liquid Telecom, told a media briefing in Nairobi that under the deal, his organization will lease Ketraco’s electricity transmission lines to carry internet traffic from the undersea cables that terminate at the port of Mombasa to the rest of the East Africa region.

“We envisage that through providing internet through overhead fiber optic lines, we will be able to lower cost of internet by reducing use of expensive wireless technology,” Youssefi said.

Youssefi noted that they hope to provide internet connectivity to Somalia and Ethiopia by early 2019. Liquid telecom plans to invest at least 7 million U.S. dollars to commercialize the electricity transmission lines.

Under the agreement that spans 15 years, Ketraco will retain 60 percent of the revenues collected, with Liquid Telecom retaining 40 percent.

Youssefi said that in phase one, they will energize 1,500 km of Ketraco electricity lines.

He observed that once the agreement is operationalized, it will improve the reliability of internet connectivity in the East African region.

“It will provide another level of redundancy on communication cables so that when one line is down, connectivity will be routed to the overhead lines,” he added.

Fernandes Barasa, managing director of Ketraco, said that his organization plans to diversify its revenue streams through leveraging its power transmission infrastructure to carry internet data.

According to Barasa, Ketraco hopes to earn 3 million dollars annually from leasing its fiber optic lines, adding that all Ketraco transmission line built have a fiber optic cable, usually 48 cores, which is strung alongside the power cables on high voltage transmission lines.

“This includes the interconnecting transmission lines with neighboring Uganda, Ethiopia and Tanzania,” Barasa said.

He added that fiber is a necessary component of all transmission lines because of use of Optical Ground Wire (OPGW) technology which combines the functions of grounding for safety and for internet communications.

He noted that Ketraco is a licensed second-tier network facilities provider that allows the firm to lease out dark and lit fiber.

“Through extensive market research, we have opted to target the optic fiber cable market, leasing out our excess fiber on a wholesale basis, in order to meet the ever increasing bandwidth demand of voice, data and video for the country,” he added.

He revealed that the partnership between Ketraco and Liquid Telcom will see telecommunications firms provide a more resilient network in many parts of the country already connected to the national grid.

He added that the partnership will further extend fiber connections to remote areas of Kenya and neighboring countries including Ethiopia, South Sudan, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, etc.

Ketraco said that it currently runs a 2,315 km electricity transmission network within Kenya and by 2020, the company will have completed construction of over 8,000 km of high voltage transmission lines with concurrent fiber connectivity.

“This will guarantee reliable connectivity due to the overhead fiber cable that is superior to buried fiber and that is not susceptible to vandalism,” he added.

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