I have to start with a lot of skepticism given the historical failure of any of the big internet giants to make any significant impact on internet access in Uganda or Africa. When Google announced Google project link, our hopes were high. But alas, Link is a complete disappointment for reasons only known to them. In fact there are some people I meet who keep telling me to wait for “Google’s Fibre” project to complete. Little do they know that that the infrastructure is there. It has been laid at least across metropolitan Kampala area.
However, still hasn’t converted economically to the last mile users who are the consumers of internet activities. The reason presumably is that Google also buys bandwidth from an upstream provider like Seacom. Perhaps big G should have thought about the upstream link as well…maybe they should have built their own fibre right from the coast in which case they would have control over price of bandwidth.
But Google also uses another upstream provider which I presume is Seacom or Liquid telecom who are a duopoly.
I see Facebook repeating the same mistake unless they plan to use another upstream provider…probably their internet drones to supply their backhaul network. If that’s the move, then that would be smart because then, they would have ultimate control over bandwidth supply chain right from tier 1 ISPs right to the last mile. The only stumbling block would be UCC who would step in to dictate data prices…in a way that could bring it to per with the competition, in effect annulling the whole point of the project — which should be cutting down on data costs. Of course this would violate the free market principles, but TIA.
About FB’s choice of deployment. Yes you obviously have a point. West Nile is a very strategic location right now as you have described; it’s right at the center of Africa almost acting as a vantage point for CAR, SS, Dr Congo and Northern/Western Uganda. SS has Oil. Western Uganda has Oil. The gov’t has committed some funds to build some kind of regional hub there...presumably to handle logistics.
There’s talk of an international airport, a hydropower dam apart from Karuma dam and lots of other interesting things to be built. Lets not forget the so-called karuma city. There are about 3 game parks there. A lot tourists and expats will be making that region their second home. Oil companies too need serious IT infrastructure to run their operations.
Putting the cards together, it’s clear that this isn’t your philanthropic move akin to internet.org/Free basics. From a long-term biz perspective, it makes a lot of sense for FB to commit $170m to build serious infrastructure there.
Am actually not happy that it’s FB planning to build fibre network. Instead it should have been guys like MTN/Seacom/Liquid telecom whose core biz is actually internet connectivity. Am afraid that FB might not put in as much commitment as these other mainstream ISPs. But since the deal is in partnership with Airtel which is a Telecom, perhaps there might be long-term goals here.