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High-speed internet comes to rural Liberia

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MILLIONS of Liberians will access high-speed internet services with the deployment of at least 200 telecom towers in the West African country.

The deployment announcement was made by Orange Liberia CEO Jean Marius Yao, who added that the telco would also provide technology upgrades in the country.

“This two-year partnership will enable us to accelerate our rural coverage with the deployment of over 200 solar-based rural sites, including at least 55 this year, so that all Liberians, no matter where they are, be able to: communicate with their loved ones, communicate with their business partners, receive and transfer money using our Orange Money services, and to enjoy the fastest internet with the 4G technology,” Yao said.

This deployment comes after Orange Liberia signed a partnership agreement in November 2022 with US-based Vanu, which specialises in helping operators reach off-grid markets via turnkey mobile communications solutions to extend coverage in rural areas.

According to Yao, the partnership between Orange Liberia and Vanu will provide technology upgrades based on the innovative “Network-as-a-Service” (NaaS) model.

The agreement is part of the Orange IDEAL programme to extend network coverage to 20 million people living in Liberia by constructing 5,000 sites in four years. The deal includes Liberia, Burkina Faso and Cote D’Ivoire.

Orange and Vanu will deploy an innovative model that will allow for a ‘win-win’ partnership for both companies by sharing mutual opportunities. They will also use the latest mobile technology to accelerate the development of digital projects in healthcare, agriculture, education and financial services.

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This will help to improve the overall Orange customer service experiences in Liberia, while Vanu, with its expertise, will facilitate the rollout of sites in uncovered areas of Liberia.

Yao stated that Orange Liberia saw a need to change its investment model for deployment in remote areas for a more efficient model;

“The quality of life of rural populations will be improved and inequalities reduced with the provision of digital services to include: voice communications, internet, and mobile money,” he stated.

On his part, Anoj Kumar Singh, the Vice President of Global Carrier Sales, Vanu, expressed “appreciation for the partnership and the need for digitalisation in every Liberian life” while assuring Liberians of experiencing the best internet services to be provided by both companies.

Unlike Urban areas, rural areas in Liberia continue to face low internet access leading to difficulties in accessing opportunities, including healthcare, education, advanced technology and food security.

Statistics from Datareportal’s report, “The state of digital in Liberia in 2023” show there were 1.80 million internet users in Liberia at the start of 2023, while internet penetration stood at just 33.6% of the total population of 5.2 million.

Inhabitants of rural Liberia have started hailing the telco for the initiative, stressing that it will significantly boost their constituencies.

According to James Lassakollie, town chief of Jormakpeh, Bong, in Northcentral Liberia, it will allow residents to easily communicate with their families and loved ones in other parts of the country.

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“At least the network problem we faced daily will be settled and we can easily connect our family and other relatives in other places,” he said, adding that the 4G service provided by the new towers would also provide business networking opportunities for rural entrepreneurs.