Google, Convergence Partners, International Finance Corporation (“IFC”), and Mitsui & Co., Ltd. (“Mitsui”) have signed an agreement to invest in CSquared, a broadband infrastructure company focused on building wholesale metro fibre optic networks and enabling Internet access in Africa. CSquared will operate as an independent company headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya with cumulative capital commitments of up to $100 million. CSquared has operational networks in Uganda and Ghana and plans to deploy networks in more countries. The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions.
This partnership will combine Google’s technical knowledge and expertise in deploying and operating wholesale metro infrastructure in Uganda and Ghana through Project Link with the additional capital, skills, and reach from all four investors. Convergence Partners’ deep experience of active, value adding investing in the ICT sector in sub-Saharan Africa, IFC’s experience spanning over 40 years supporting the development of the telecommunications sector in Africa, as well as Mitsui’s cross-industry capabilities, vast investment portfolio and global business presence, and its experience as a strategic investor in the ICT sector will significantly bolster the scale and resources of CSquared in its continued quest to grow access to the Internet across the entire sub-Saharan region.
Africa lags behind most regions in broadband Internet access — only 6% of Africans have access, making it difficult for the region to achieve its human and economic potential. In a predominantly wireless environment like Africa, mobile networks depend upon high speed and reliable optical fibre to connect to cellular towers to enable them to provide high quality, wireless broadband services to customers. Furthermore, fibre is becoming an increasingly important way for end users to directly access the Internet, especially large businesses, small and medium enterprises (SME), and educational institutions, research organizations, and residential estates.
Still, fibre optic cable is expensive. Deploying and operating infrastructure on a shared basis can help lower installation and consumer costs. The open access philosophy is integral to the CSquared model and its shareholders. CSquared offers superior quality, affordable wholesale services to all licensed operators to unlock a thriving digital ecosystem.
Marian Croak, Vice-President at Google said, “We believe that together under CSquared, we can get more done to roll-out and operate affordable, high-speed, and reliable infrastructure to expand Internet access in Africa. Project Link has demonstrated the impact of shared wholesale infrastructure, and we’re excited to see CSquared bring more infrastructure to more service providers and their customers.”
In 2011, Google identified a major barrier to more affordable, reliable broadband in Africa: the lack of fibre optic networks in major cities. This led to Project Link, an initiative to build world-class, high-speed urban fibre networks in Africa’s metropolises. In 2013, Google folded these efforts under a new company brand called CSquared with the aim of expanding access and lowering costs. CSquared built more than 800 km of fibre in Kampala and Entebbe, in Uganda; and more than 840 km of fibre in the Ghanaian cities of Accra, Tema, and Kumasi. Collectively over 25 ISPs and MNOs now use these metro fibre networks to offer broadband services and 4G data to end users, with over 1,200 tower and commercial building sites connected directly to CSquared’s fibre infrastructure.
Isaac J. M. Kasana, CEO of Research and Education Network for Uganda (RENU) stated, “Research collaboration among universities in Uganda is important. Project Link and now CSquared gives us capacity that is well-priced for local collaboration, and provides us with a network that is scalable and easy to upgrade.”
Praveen Sadalage, CEO of Busy, said, “With CSquared, we are consistently able to meet and exceed our consumer and business customer expectations of reliability and quality, and this is helping us grow and position ‘Busy’ as THE preferred 4G data access provider.”
Google, Convergence Partners, IFC, and Mitsui believe in shared infrastructure and a shared vision to expand CSquared to meet the continent’s high demand for quality networks and internet access. ^