Liquid Intelligent Technologies is now delivering affordable high-speed connectivity to communities in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) using state-of-the-art Wireless Optical Communication technology (WOC) from Project Taara at X, Alphabet’s moonshot factory.
Despite being just 4.8 kilometers apart, the internet is more expensive in Kinshasa than in Brazzaville. The reason being, the two cities are separated by the Congo River, the second fastest and deepest river in the world, making it difficult to lay fiber across it.
Historically this had resulted in operators directing traffic through their respective cable landing stations over 400 km away to create high-capacity information flow between them.
As part of a larger initiative to improve broadband access across Central Africa, Liquid has been trying to close this strategic connection over the river for over two years.
Now, using innovative technology from Project Taara’s Wireless Optical Communication links, Liquid was able to create this connection and accomplish this feat in just a few days.
This high-capacity link is expected to bring down the cost of broadband access for millions of people, and a second optical link provides redundancy and resilience to this critical segment of Liquid’s network.
In the same way, traditional fiber uses light to carry data through cables in the ground, Taara’s Wireless Optical Communication links use narrow, invisible beams of light to deliver high-speed connectivity.
Capable of transmitting up to 20 Gbps each, Taara’s links across the Congo River will help the 17 million people in these cities have access to much faster and more reliable connectivity.
This milestone is part of Liquid’s broader initiative to make this region a more attractive destination for international business investments.
According to Nic Rudnick, Group CEO of Liquid Intelligent Technologies, “Our work with Taara has allowed us to use WOC technology to provide cost-effective, high-speed connectivity to the people in the two cities. Thus, ensuring that Liquid can enable economic prosperity by creating a connected future across the African continent despite the difficult terrain.”
“We’re delighted to be helping bring more affordable and reliable internet access to people in Kinshasa. Tara’s mission is to expand global access to fast, affordable internet and we’re proud to be supporting Liquid in their mission to close the connectivity gap between these two cities,” said Bhavesh Mistry, Head of Project Taara in Africa.
Since early this year, despite the challenges faced due to the pandemic, Liquid has successfully brought high-speed connectivity across the DRC, a country that previously ranked 145th globally for internet access.
Working with international technology companies has enabled Liquid to extend its high-capacity backbone on the continent, especially to its three East to West digital corridors.
These investments reaffirm its place as Africa’s premier digital services and infrastructure provider in the DRC and surrounding countries.
Global internet traffic is projected to grow 24% annually. Fiber-optic cable can support this growth in demand, but rolling out an extensive fiber network often means deployment complications.
Planning and digging trenches to lay lines can be time-consuming and costly, and tough terrain can pose physical challenges that make expansion nearly impossible.
Because of the difficulties laying fiber in some places, there’s a significant divide in mobile internet speeds between the countries with the fastest internet and those with the slowest.
A potential solution to this problem arose during work on Google’s Project Loon. The Loon team needed to figure out a way to create a data link between balloons that were flying over 100 km apart.
The team investigated the use of wireless optical communication technology to establish high-throughput links between balloons. Like fiber, but without the cables, wireless optical communication uses light to transmit high-speed data between two points.
After experiencing some early success in the stratosphere, the team began to wonder: would it be possible to apply some of that science to solve connectivity problems down a little closer to Earth?
Using the same technology, the Taara team has piloted their technology in India and Africa. Taara links offer a cost-effective and quickly deployable way to bring high-speed connectivity to remote areas.
Taara links help plug critical gaps to major access points, like cell towers and WiFi hotspots, and have the potential to help thousands of people access the educational, business, and communication benefits of the web.
The Taara team is now focused on delivering 20+ Gbps connectivity over distances of 20+ km between each terminal and on making the units fast and easy for partners to deploy.
The team is in conversation with Telcos, ISPs, and governments around the world about the potential for wireless optical communication technology to significantly accelerate the deployment of the extensive, high-throughput networks necessary to support the future of the web.