SoftBank, Smart Africa ink MoU for affordable broadband

SoftBank and Smart Africa ink MoU for affordable African broadband

01 July 2021 | Natalie Bannerman

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SoftBank and Smart Africa Secretariat (Smart Africa) have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to develop solutions that enable affordable broadband across Africa.

Specifically, SoftBank and Smart Africa will work to provide accessible and affordable internet connectivity to Africa’s underserved regions, and effectively “bridge the digital divide”.

The news forms part of Smart Africa overall goal to double broadband penetration in Africa to 51% by the year 2025. As such the alliance is working to implement the Bulk Capacity Purchase Project, an initiative that aims to deliver affordable internet connectivity for African citizens leveraging the procurement resources of its member countries.

As its contribution to the project, SoftBank which became a Smart Africa Gold Member in October 2020, will deploy its non-terrestrial network (NTN) solutions to reduce internet costs and build affordable internet infrastructure. SoftBank’s NTN Solutions will use the connectivity services of OneWeb, Skylo, and HAPSMobile, among others, to provide connectivity from space.

“The vision of transforming Africa into a single digital market requires us to embrace partnerships,” said Lacina Koné (pictured), CEO of Smart Africa.

“Therefore, we are honoured to welcome SoftBank Corp. into the Smart Africa Alliance. Together, we will be able to inject further innovation into Africa’s digital innovation as we move towards creating a Single Digital Market by 2030.”

The first stage of the collaboration will see SoftBank and Smart Africa continue identify demand for NTN solutions by conducting further feasibility studies in the five African countries that have already expressed interest in the Bulk Capacity Purchase Project. These include, the Republic of Djibouti, the Arab Republic of Egypt, the Republic of Kenya, the Kingdom of Morocco, and the Republic of Rwanda.

In addition, SoftBank and Smart Africa will draw up implementation plans and consider potential market entries in the future. In order to address bridging the digital divide, the two will also study ways to collaborate and engage with organisations such as the HAPS Alliance, which aims to promote the commercial adoption of HAPS.

Lastly, this partnership will contribute to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals by providing digital solutions that address societal challenges.

“We believe our NTN solutions will be extremely effective technologies to provide connectivity to African countries and regions that lack sufficient Internet access,” said Hidebumi Kitahara, Vice president and head of the technology unit's global business strategy division, at SoftBank Corp.

“With our NTN solutions powered by OneWeb, Skylo and HAPSMobile, we’ll work closely with Smart Africa to provide telecommunication networks.”