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ZTE to build national fibre backbone for Uganda

The Ugandan government has signed a $2.5 million contract with Chinese vendor ZTE to build a national fibre backbone.

ZTE will replace infrastructure installed in 2003 with dense wavelength division multiplexing (DWDM) equipment. The deal will be funded through a vendor finance agreement and the network will be operated by the Uganda Electricity Transmission Company (UETCL).

The first networks to be worked on will be in the Kampala, Jinja and Tororo regions as well as Malaba on the Kenyan border.

According to Frank Tumwebaze, minister of information technology and communications in the Ugandan government, a second phased will be built in the regions of Soroti, Lira, Masaka and the Fort Portal-Hoima area. These will be connected to Rwanda via the Mirama border post.

Tumwebaze was delivering the keynote speech at the Capacity Africa conference in Kampala, Uganda.

Erias Kiyemba, managing director of UETCL, said: “Local consumers will eventually benefit from lower user costs charged on data products. We expect this venture to yield strong returns after three-to-five years of operation.”

The new backbone – which will be a major capacity boost for ISPs and wholesale carriers – is expected to increase the uptake of internet services in rural areas. Neighbouring countries will also benefit from the venture. 

According to UETCL, the original fibre network was installed in 2003 on the company’s pylons, in order to support a reliable, safe and efficient power supply. The company leased excess capacity to telecoms providers.

“With the development of the mobile technology and booming electronic multimedia applications in Uganda, there has been a high demand of the fibre,” said UETCL. “The data infrastructure will provide a high speed internet connection in Uganda and the East African region.”

The new backbone will connect Uganda to Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan, and to subsea cables serving east Africa.