SomCable, Bluwan to Expand Fast Wireless Service From Somalia

SomCable, a broadband operator in Somalia, has chosen wireless technology company Bluwan SA to help introduce a high-speed wireless Internet service in the sparsely populated and predominately rural Somaliland region.

“We can do this Fibre Through the Air project at one-10th of the price of a fixed-line fiber connection,” Mike Cothill, chief executive officer of SomCable, said in a phone interview. “To run a cable to a home, you have to dig up people’s properties and management of the network is pretty expensive.”

Globecomm Systems Inc. (GCOM), a New York-based provider of satellite services, will deliver and integrate the system, according to an e-mailed statement from the companies. The goal is 1 million subscribers by 2015. Paris-based Bluwan will initially deploy hubs in Hargeisa, the capital, with a 5- kilometer (3.1-mile) range offering links fast enough for video and audio.

The network will expand to Burco, Borama and Berbera, and then across the border to Djibouti, which is connected to underseas fibre-optic cables. It may then extend to Ethiopia, Rwanda, Uganda and South Sudan, the companies said.

Somaliland, a former British colony, declared independence from Somalia in 1991, after the fall of dictator Mohammed Siad Barre. No country officially recognizes its independence.

Users will connect to the wireless service via an outdoor antenna and the deal is worth at least $3 million for Bluwan, according to today’s statement. Each Bluwan hub will offer constant speeds of 2 megabits per second and peak speeds of 100 megabits per second to thousands of customers.

Standard access costs $5 a month and doesn’t allow downloads of video such as YouTube, SomCable said in a separate e-mail. A premium service at a minimum of $20 a month is “open completely to the Internet.”

Remittances from overseas workers account for an estimated 80 percent of Somaliland’s $500 million annual gross domestic product, while the sale of livestock mainly to buyers in the Middle East is its biggest generator of export income.

Internet connection speeds have improved and costs have fallen since 2009 in the region as at least four undersea cables began operating off Africa’s Indian Ocean coast, replacing more expensive satellite links.

Africa has fewer than five mobile-broadband subscriptions per 100 inhabitants, compared with more than 10 percent in all other regions of the world, according to the International Telecommunications Union, a Geneva-based industry group.

To contact the reporter on this story: Sarah McGregor in Nairobi at smcgregor5@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Nasreen Seria at nseria@bloomberg.net

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