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Rwanda’s space mountain

By Eleneus Akanga
Posted on Thursday, 20 May 2010 13:55

Rwanda’s 4,507m Mount Karisimbi is an ideal site for a broadcast antenna

Rwanda is building its own satellite on earth, atop its highest peak, Mount Karisimbi. When fully operational, the $2.3m initial antenna project will play a crucial role in Rwanda’s Vision 2020, a development plan focused on using information and communications technology to foster a knowledge-based economy.

The project has reduced the cost the country pays for international bandwidth from $3,500 to $1,500 per megabit per month and should cut the cost of calling in Rwanda by 50%. Currently, only Rwandatel is using the antenna for mobile phone coverage, but MTN and Tigo could follow suit. The antenna is connected to a fibre-optic ring that was installed throughout the country in 2008, and most of Rwanda’s internet service providers have already subscribed. The Mount Karisimbi project has also helped to boost radio and television reception in rural areas, and it is praised as part of the solution to Eastern and Central Africa’s air safety and traffic problems.

Negotiations are under way with the South African Broadcasting Corporation to use Karisimbi’s digital video broadcast-terrestrial system to broadcast live matches of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. Rwanda wants Karisimbi to be used as a gateway for broadcasters to relay matches throughout Africa, helping end the continent’s reliance on European satellites. First, Rwanda must convince the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa to invest the $80m needed to develop a communications, navigation and surveillance system for air traffic management, amid reports that the project has stalled due to political interference.

This article was first published in The Africa Report April-May 2010 edition

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