It may have over a billion monthly users, but Facebook still isn’t done connecting the world. That’s particularly true in developing nations like those in Africa, and on Monday, the social network announced a new initiative “to build shared fiber backhaul connectivity in Uganda.” This, Facebook hopes, will help address the issues of capacity that many operators in Uganda have expressed.
By way of a partnership with both Airtel Uganda and Bandwidth & Cloud Services Group, a wholesale bandwidth provider with an East African focus, Facebook is embarking upon a journey to build a 770km fiber in northwest Uganda. Upon completion, this fiber is expected to “provide backhaul connectivity covering more than 3 million people in Uganda and enable future cross-border connectivity to neighboring countries.”
By working on backhaul capacity, Facebook hopes that a number of different service providers can take advantage of this infrastructure, rather than the build exclusively benefiting the social media company (it’s clearly learned from the backlash it encountered with Internet.org). Facebook also noted that it would be working alongside multiple operators, and has invited others to take part as well through an open access and shared infrastructure framework.
There’s no word yet on exactly what the timeline for the project will be, but when all is said and done, Facebook says that performance will be improved from 3G to 4G in places where operators are constrained by bandwidth.
“This initiative in Uganda is part of our broader strategy to improve connectivity everywhere, including in countries where access to submarine and international capacity has been limited,” Facebook wrote in an announcement. “Based on the learnings and results from our work in Uganda, we will engage with other operators in additional countries to scale this model, with the ultimate goal of helping local operators provide robust network coverage.”
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