The FINANCIAL — IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, Google Inc., Convergence Partners, and Mitsui & Co. have agreed to invest up to $100 million in CSquared, a partnership focused on deploying wholesale, carrier-neutral, open-access fiber optic networks across Sub-Saharan Africa.
The investment will help improve broadband connectivity in a region where the lack of dependable internet access impairs economic growth, competitiveness, and the development of basic services. It will expand Google’s existing operations in Uganda and Ghana, with the goal of entering several new markets over the next five years, according to IFC.
The investment is part of IFC’s Digital Infrastructure Initiative, which aims to increase internet access in under served regions. Improving broadband connectivity through the Digital Infrastructure Initiative is a priority for the World Bank Group—better broadband penetration has a direct impact on GDP growth, increases productivity and transparency, and helps bridge the gender gap.
Fiber optic cable, however, is expensive—just one kilometer can cost between $15,000 and $30,000—and Africa needs at least half a million more kilometers. Deploying and operating infrastructure on a shared basis—Csquared’s business model—can help lower installation and consumer costs. CSquared aims to offer high-quality, affordable wholesale services to all licensed operators.
CSquared has built more than 800 km of fiber in Kampala and Entebbe, Uganda; and more than 840 km of fiber in the Ghanaian cities of Accra, Tema, and Kumasi. More than 25 internet service providers and mobile network operators now use the company’s fiber networks to offer broadband services and 4G data to end users, with over 1,200 tower and commercial building sites connected directly to CSquared’s fiber infrastructure.
“This project demonstrates IFC’s commitment to increasing affordable and reliable internet access under the global Digital Infrastructure Initiative,” said Aniko Szigetvari, Global Head of Telecom, Media and Technology Investments at IFC. “By supporting broadband business models that promote shared infrastructure, the initiative will reduce entry barriers and deployment costs in the telecommunications sector, increase affordability, and enable the development of digital economies.”
Marian Croak, Vice-President at Google said: “We believe that together under CSquared, we can get more done to roll-out and operate affordable, high-speed, and reliable infrastructure to expand internet access in Africa. Project Link is demonstrating the impact of shared wholesale infrastructure, and we’re excited to see CSquared bring more infrastructure to more service providers and their customers.”