Photograph — OpenCape

The Tanzania Telecommunications Corporation (TTCL) has said it will be extending its fibre optic connectivity to Burundi under a deal with a consortium of network operators in the eastern African nation.

According to Waziri Kindamba, the Chief Executive Officer of the state-owned Tanzania telco, the $6 million deal with the Burundi Backbone Systems (BBS) will be implemented over the next ten years.

“TTCL will provide first-class broadband internet services in Burundi through our stations in Kabanga and Manyovu in the border region of Kigoma,” said Kindamba. The connection is expected to be carried out by the TTCL and managed by Tanzanian National ICT Broadband Backbone (NICTBB).

Over time, fibre optics has become a common alternative for telecommunication, networking and cable connections with most long-distance lines in advanced countries now made of fibre optic cables.

It is generally considered more suitable for achieving deeper internet access penetration over conventional broadband. This is because optical fibre carries more information due to its higher bandwidth with minimal signal losses and faster speeds which are maintained over greater distances.

So far, TTCL has connected Zambia, Malawi, and Rwanda and is targeting other countries in the Southern African Development Community (SADC). With the planned connection to Burundi, the telco is poised to broaden its business portfolio in both the SADC and eastern African region.

For Burundi, however, the landlocked nation is set to be linked to network infrastructure across the world as the agreement includes connection to the Seacom and Eassy international undersea cable systems, according to the BBS’s executive officer Elia Ntihagowumwe.

The connectivity agreement with TTCL keys into the objective of the Burundi Broadband project launched by the country’s Agency for Regulation and Control of Telecoms (ARCT) in 2017.

The eight-year program (2018 to 2025) aims to make Burundi one of the most connected countries in the world by covering a total area of 27,834 square kilometres with broadband connectivity.

Burundi reportedly has the lowest internet connection rate in the East African region. As of December 2017, only five percent of the 11 million Burundians had access to the internet and less than two percent to the broadband connection.

Meanwhile, other countries in the region such as Kenya and Tanzania have gone far in internet access penetration as their governments have built a nationwide infrastructure with fibre optic backbone, which is run by the private sector.

Linking up with TTCL’s fibre infrastructure will provide Burundi with a chance to deepen internet penetration and access new internet services. This would also ease and improve business operations between the neighbouring countries, both of which are members of the East African Community (EAC).

“TTCL will provide data and high-speed Internet as it stores data at the national Internet data center, which will benefit corporate customers operating businesses in both countries like CRDB bank,” TTCL’s Vedastus Mwita told The EastAfrican.

The value of the initial agreement with TTCL is expected to change once the telco upgrades the supply from 2.5 bits per second to 10 billion bits per second, Mwita added.

Burundi Backbone Systems (BBS) is a consortium of Burundian telecommunications players that are collaborating to build a national fibre optic network in the country.

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