Somalia to Access High-Speed Internet

Somalians are set to access high-speed networks in the near future, following the signing of a deal that will connect the country to satellites and fiber optic cables.

O3b Networks Ltd, a satellite provider that incorporates investors such as Google Inc., will offer internet capacity to Somtel in 2014, according to a statement released by the company yesterday.

While still low in comparison with other nations across the world, internet use has risen gradually in Somalia. Several telecommunication companies in Somalia, such as Somtel and Telesom, are contending to offer internet services to cafes and clients throughout the nation through various fiber optics and satellite networks.

In spite of the lack of a central government and the chaotic state of the nation for a considerable part of the last 20 years, Somalia’s telecommunication sector has demonstrated continuous growth. According to industry experts, private firms have filled the void left by government establishments that disintegrated in 1991. These private companies, which offer services such as internet and landline telephone connection, have been able to keep the warring nation online.

Somalia is one of the last African nations to access internet connection after the nation introduced its initial ISP in 1999. The country’s internet connectivity has undergone dramatic growth in a relatively short time, and the internet business appears to be mushrooming in Somalia–apparently supported by the lack of regulations and the fact that tariffs are one of the lowest in the continent. Nevertheless, the lack of regulation has led to problems associated with network interconnection and spectrum coordination of frequency.

Piracy has generally prevented the nation from accessing international cables, therefore Somalians must depend on satellites for global connection. According to statistics, approximately 1.2% of the Somali population have access to the internet. Internet penetration in Somalia is comparatively low, unlike other countries in the region, mainly because most people cannot afford the cost of the service.

In Mogadishu, internet services can vary from $30-$500 per month, depending on the speed and type of connection. With the deal struck between O3b Networks Ltd and Somtel, the latter is expected to experience growth while offering the ultimate internet experience.

According to technology analysts, fiber optics would result in a faster and more reliable internet service in the country, besides making it affordable. The introduction of fiber optics in Somalia is also likely to attract investors to the sector as the number of internet users is expected to increase.

Presently, connectivity is neither adequate nor reliable according to Ismail Dualeh, the Chief Technology Officer at Somtel. In a statement publishd recently, Dualeh asserted that the O3b solution would provide Somtel the opportunity to initiate enhanced internet connectivity with improved performance.

Somtel has also revealed that Liquid Telecom, a Mauritius-based company, would build the country’s first fiber optic broadband. Somtel has since contracted considerable O3b trunk capacity ahead of the formal satellite service launch in 2014.

Photograph: Muse Hussein/Sabahi