Connect with us

Feature Articles

Closing the digital divide amid Covid-19

Ranine Awwad

Published

on

Closing the digital divide amid Covid-19

People around the world do not have equal access to the internet. However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, everything has shifted to the digital space. That’s why prioritizing work on closing the digital divide has never been more essential. A lack of internet connection means that students in rural areas are left behind and vulnerable groups of the population are at risk – having no access to online healthcare services.

For some, the lack of connectivity is attributed to the varying costs of broadband, which is quite expensive in certain locations. For others, access to the internet may depend on the decision-making of others. In India for example, internet shutdown has been occurring only in specific locations for months.

According to the OpenVault Broadband Insights report, the average broadband consumption by users has increased by 47% in 2020 compared to the same period in 2019. At the start of 2020, OpenVault had projected that average consumption would reach 425 GB by the end of the year.

Access to the internet is a human right. Yet, nearly half (45%) of the world’s population remain unconnected. Not everyone has access to the same services or prices. According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) 2019 Broadband Deployment Report, 21.3 million Americans lack broadband access- having download speeds of at least 25 megabits per second (Mbps) and upload speeds of at least 3 Mbps.

In December 2019, the US House of Representatives passed the Broadband Deployment Accuracy and Technological Availability (Broadband Data Act) which requires the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to adopt new data collection rules and improve its broadband mapping strategy.

Late June 2020, two Republican members of Congress released a set of principles for future federal broadband legislation. They recommended the Federal Government to establish COVID-19 connectivity programs. On the other hand, the “Broadband Connectivity and Digital Equity Framework” from Senate Commerce Chairman Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore.- includes nine broadband policies that aim to help families and businesses survive the pandemic.

New legislation- the House Bill 969 “Broadband Internet Service- signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis on June 9, authorizes certain funds within the State Transportation Trust Fund to be used for certain broadband infrastructure projects. To expand internet access, $5 million in annual spending was approved. The broadband policy oversight is now assigned to a new Florida Office of Broadband within the Department of Economic Opportunity after being under the responsibility of Management Services.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, many telecom operators around the world have provided free broadband for their users. People who could not afford to pay, enjoyed free access to services. “The growth the telecom operators have been expecting over several years came just in a few months. However, the pandemic has shown the importance of prioritizing work to bridge the digital divide,” said Robin Mersh, CEO of open standards development organization Broadband Forum during Broadband Forum’s Q2 virtual meeting.

Ranine joined Inside Telecom as an Investigative Journalist. Her extensive fieldwork and investigations shed light on many socio-economic issues. Over the past few years, she has transformed her key findings into in-depth analytical reports. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Communication.

Feature Articles

NTRA classifies Orange Egypt as a leading telecommunications services provider

Ranine Awwad

Published

on

The National Telecom Regulatory Authority (NTRA) has ranked Orange Egypt as first in the speed in data services according to Benchmarking Report No. 11 issued in May 2020. Four telecom operators – Vodafone, Orange, Etisalat, and Telecom Egypt (WE) were evaluated based on international standards.

Orange Egypt outperformed in terms of the quality of data services in 51 areas with an average speed of 32 Mbps. On the other hand, the closest competitor reached an average speed of 28 Mbps in 22 regions.

The NTRA report shows that Orange Egypt provides distinctive data services in all areas of greater Cairo, new urban communities in East Cairo, and certain areas in West Cairo.

In fact, Orange has been working hard to provide the best services to its customers especially during the Covid-19 pandemic.

On July 5, 2020, Orange Egypt has announced its cooperation with Tabibi Clinics to provide healthcare support to Orange’s customers including tele-consultations, setting appointments for home visits by a doctor, or for clinic visits. The telecom operator customers will receive a 25% discount for Tabibi clinic services. Khalil Abdel-Khalek, Co-founder and CEO of Tabibi 24/7 said, “The Orange- Tabibi partnership enhances the role of technology in modernizing the performance of medical services,” according to Daily News Egypt. “This collaboration activates the role of telemedicine in developing the current situation to provide the best healthcare services for patients”, he said.

For football lovers, Orange Egypt has announced the launch of a new digital platform called “HareefLaLiga” which aims to provide LaLiga Football League fans with news and updates.

Furthermore, the telecom provider has also collaborated with Misr El Kheir foundation aiming to support irregular workers’ families during Ramadan. Disinfectants and sanitizers were distributed to thousands of families across 17 governorates including Aswan, Luxor, Halayeb, Qena, and Beni Suef.

Continue Reading

Feature Articles

Iliad to collaborate with Open Fiber in Italy

Karim Hussami

Published

on

Iliad to collaborate with Open Fiber in Italy

Several companies are collaborating to take advantage of some markets in order to widen their business scope. This is certainly the case with the Italian connectivity market, which has inspired new interest amid the lockdown.

Iliad stormed its way into the Italian market by having a partnership with Open Fiber. “The collaboration with Iliad, which chose Open Fiber for its entry into the fixed market, is further confirmation of the validity of the neutral Open Fiber model,” said Elisabetta Ripa, CEO of Open Fiber.

Therefore, the French provider of telecoms services struck a deal with Open Fiber, an Italian telecommunications company, giving Iliad access to Open Fiber’s infrastructure, or FTTH (Fiber to the x) network, to provide connectivity to 271 Italian cities by 2022.

Open Fiber had more than 8 million homes subscribe to an FTTH service, at the end of last year.

Iliad came to Italy as a mobile operator two years ago gaining over 5.5 million customers, yet it has since, been looking to establish its fixed-line access.

This extensive broadband agreement between the two companies, aims to reach a convergence, but how does it work? To sell an additional product or service to an existing customer rather than purchasing new customers in a single product line, which means a less expensive, more efficient process.

“Growing demand for fixed connectivity over the few past months has driven us to accelerate toward our debut in the fixed segment and the agreement with Open Fiber is the first step in that direction”, said Benedetto Levi, CEO of Iliad’s Italian operations, in a statement.

“Iliad has brought transparency, simplicity and clarity to the world of telephony by building a solid and trusting relationship with its users,” said Levi.

In addition, convergence produces something to meet individual requirements along with a customer service that can be more effective and efficient. Thus, the advantages that convergence gives increases customer loyalty and adds more importance to service providers.

Sky Italia announced a few days ago that it would offer broadband services to customers in 120 towns and cities, expanding its broadband mark in the Italian market.

With the Italian government advising Open Fiber to work with TIM (Telecom Italia) to generate a single network, the Italian telecommunication company continues to be a crucially important player in the industry. This factor increases pressure on TIM, which is lagging behind in an increasingly competitive Italian market.

Thus, convergence is a big step towards enhancing business but it is part of a long-term strategic plan that takes time to implement.  

Continue Reading

Feature Articles

Loon: A balloon to help bridge the digital divide in Kenya

Inside Telecom Staff

Published

on

Loon A balloon to help bridge the digital divide in Kenya

Kenya has progressed with the deployment of 5G networks. However, a number of Kenyans remain unconnected especially those who are living in rural areas. According to the World Bank report issued in October 2019, 44% of Kenyans living in urban areas have access to the Internet. However, less than 20% of the population is connected. Alphabet’s Loon division comes to close the digital gap with its new project called Loon’s balloons which aims to extend connectivity for communities around the world. In partnership with Telekom Kenya, Loon delivers connectivity from balloons flying 20km up in the stratosphere.

On July 7, 2020, Loon’s balloon started delivering connectivity in Kenya following a commercial deal- the first of its kind in Africa- between Telekom Kenya and Loon. A crucial partnership for Kenyans digital rights as it helps them connect to the whole world especially amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to the New York Times, the balloons will provide a 4G LTE network connection to nearly the 31,000-square-mile area across central and western Kenya, including Nairobi.

Late April 2020, Loon launched the first loon balloon in partnership with Telekom Kenya aiming to provide services to network subscribers across the country. Loon’s Head of Engineering Salvatore Candido said in a blog post “Loon flights depart from one of two sites in Puerto Rico or Nevada. These balloons reach Kenya through a map built on a daily basis by software automation.” According to Candido, Loon’s balloons help to close the digital divide. “The importance of making it possible for everyone to have access to the Internet has never been so clear in our day to day lives,” he said.

According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) census report, only one in five Kenyans has access to the Internet. Sometimes, Kenyans living in rural areas have to travel physically to secure access to the internet. Loon balloons will help Kenyans to remain connected. The launch will enable Kenyans to enjoy internet access and utilize Kenyan government platforms – as many services including applying for a passport and paying for a trade license, have been digitized.

Loon’s CEO Alastair Westgarth said in a blog post published on July 7, 2020, that most Kenyans were connected to the Internet through a balloon without knowing it. “Since we began early tests, we’ve connected over 35,000 unique users, delivering OTT voice and video calling, streaming, web connectivity, and more,” he explained.

Project Loon was launched in 2013 and has been used for many emergencies such as connecting Peru after an earthquake in 2019. Loon has taken the most essential components of a cell tower and has designed them to be light enough to be carried by a balloon. These balloons are manufactured to cope with extreme weather conditions.

Loon balloons are made from a sheet of polyethylene and they last up to 100 days in the air before landing back on Earth. Polyethylene is the most popular type of plastic in the world but it needs 450 years to biodegrade. However, the company has thought about conserving the environment. Balloons are located through a GPS module and lands in sparsely populated areas so they can be collected for reuse and recycle.

Loon has been criticized for the deployment of the Loon balloons technology in Kenyan areas that have already developed infrastructures.

Continue Reading

Trending

Copyright © 2020 Inside Telecom