Google is taking experience gained from the Google Fiber project, which has seen high speed broadband deployed to residences in Kansas City, Austin, Texas and Provo, Utah, and is turning its attention to a less obvious target market: Uganda.
More specifically, Google is targeting Kampala, the oldest city and capital of Uganda, with some three million inhabitants. The company has announced Project Link, an initiative to build a super-fast, high-capacity fibre network to enable any local mobile operator or internet service provider to provide people in Kampala with a faster, more reliable internet.
“We’re strengthening a crucial piece of the Internet supply chain,” said Kai Wulff, access field director at Google. “Some parts of the chain are already strong: undersea cables are bringing data to Africa’s shores and mobile providers are expanding services across the continent. We’ve now built quality infrastructure in between these points to deliver the speed and capacity that supports the latest and greatest of the web.”
Wulff said that Project Link goes beyond basic access and enables local providers to offer new mobile data plans or high-speed internet for office buildings and universities, and support newer technologies as they come to market. “For Kampala, we hope it’s a foundation to support the needs of a new crop of entrepreneurs and innovators: the media-rich projects of a successful musician, fast connections for local hospitals, or new digital learning tools for students,” Wulff said.
At the recent Broadband World Forum in Amsterdam, Kevin Lo, general manager of Google Fiber, claimed that the parts of the USA with access to Google Fiber are already seeing significant innovation in the local area as a result of high speed connectivity. “Fibre-ing up Kansas actually took the area to a point where it had more tech jobs than Silicon Valley,” Lo said. “And the next 100x improvement in speeds will lead to more innovation. We can’t even imagine what the next set of gigabit speed apps will do.”
Lo said that when dealing with existing communications infrastructure that was built bit by bit over the course of the last century the challenge is to redesign the infrastructure in order to coax more speed out of the network and drive more innovation.
“When we rebuilt Google Maps from the ground up in order to make it load faster, usage went up 25 per cent. So it’s a myth that consumers won’t pay for high speed broadband. We can say with full confidence that there is huge consumer demand,” Lo said.
So when Google wants to deploy fibre in a market the first thing the company does is sit down with the city’s authorities and discuss the pace of evolution, as only by making existing infrastructure available to new providers will new build outs be encouraged.
“Local government can actually play a large role in reducing the complexity of fibre networks just by giving new entrants access to maps of infrastructure, including maps of gas and water mains and things like expedited construction permits,” he said. “And as a result, community driven local initiatives can make a big impact in bridging the digital divide.”