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Google, FB date Malawi on new internet technology

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Two American telecommunication giants, Google and Facebook, have declared their interest to introduce latest technology to enable rural communities to access broadband connectivity at affordable rates.

Representatives of the companies unveiled their technology, Friday, at a meeting with a Malawi delegation that is attending a World Radio Conference in Geneva, Switzerland.

Google Access Strategy and Operations Principal, Sergei Hovyadinov, said the technology based on High-Altitude Platform Stations (Haps) uses light solar powered aircrafts that circle at an altitude of 20 kilometres and capable of transmitting signals to a radius of 100 kilometres on the ground.

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Based on the statistics, Malawi will require very few planes. For instance, a distance between Blantyre and Lilongwe will only need three of such planes.

“Thus, they [the Haps] could potentially provide a high quality of service to unserved and underserved communities.

“Internet should be accessible by everyone, everywhere and yet, according to the most recent estimates, four billion people, mostly in the developing world, remain offline,” he said.

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Hovyadinov said that at that altitude, the unmanned planes will operate above weather and will be positioned to deliver internet to a wider area with latency comparable to terrestrial technologies.

“These stations are also highly resilient in the face of natural disasters and therefore, could potentially be an effective tool for disaster recovery and communication. The planes come in a box and can be assembled within a very small area which is ideal for disaster response,” he said.

Leader of Malawi delegation, Deputy Director of Spectrum Management at the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority, Jonathan Pinifolo, hailed the technology, saying it is convenient to Malawi.

“We are currently struggling with issues of vandalism of optical fibre cables and destruction of infrastructure during natural disasters. This technology will address such i s sue s wi thout interfering with existing technologies,” he said.

Pinifolo said the technology is also in line with government plans to ensure internet connectivity to remote areas.

“Currently, internet connectivity is at 6.7 percent and tele-density [percentage of population which has access to telephone services] is at 39.8 percent. This means more than half of the population does not have access to these services,” he said.

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