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Ethereum-based platform eyes increased connectivity in West Africa

Ethereum-based platform eyes increased connectivity in West Africa

Switzerland-owned and Guinea Bissau-registered company Cajutel says it has been awarded a Tier 1 ISP data services license for its crypto project to start operations in Sierra Leone.

Cajutel seeks to use its Ethereum-based platform to increase connectivity and access to high-speed broadband in Guinea Bissau and Guinea after starting with Sierra Leone.

According to its CEO, Andreas Fink, the plan is to first build the infrastructure that would bring reliable and affordable internet then come up with a cash transfer system that will work over it targeting its first customers in 6-12 months.

"I have seen the market in many places in Africa. And all countries who have good internet are booming. And by good internet I mean reasonable speeds at affordable costs," said Fink.

"What we see in West Africa, however, is bad quality, extremely high prices, no capacity. It's at the speed level I had in Switzerland in 1994 when I started my first internet provider "Ping Net" but 50% more expensive."

Fink says while internet access in Sierra Leone's capital Freetown is currently "not bad" (though most of the countryside is still left out), there is a limited internet access situation in Guinea Bissau.

He attributes this difference to Sierra Leone's connection to the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) fibre optic which started boosting the country's access to international bandwidth in 2012.

However, despite the fibre connection, the problem of bandwidth distribution within Sierra Leone persists due to less available infrastructure for end users to tap into the capacity.

Fink explains that African countries can only connect directly to fibre or go wireless since there's no copper wire in the ground unlike Europe. Hence, newer technology is needed for this to change but most mobile networks in West Africa are still deploying on 2G with some slower variants of 3G.

"4G is very sparse and purely "marketing 4G" (meaning 4G technology running at lower 3G speeds)," he adds. "I have seen some newcomers in Freetown offering up to 1Gbps , but their base offering is 5Mbit/s at like $100 a month. So what makes us different is that we plan 10 years ahead to build infrastructure that every single user can get a huge amount of bandwidth if needed. Our plan is to build dozens if not hundreds of base stations to cover Freetown (more or less every 0.5 - 2km) to bring the capacity close to the customer."

Cajutel conducted an ICO in 2017 to raise money for the project. Over 3000 cryptocurrency enthusiasts made investment in the crowdfunding according to Fink, though there is no certainly if any investor is from West Africa. Its token is a representation of the company's share with investors having the right to buy and sell shares freely through assigned cryptocurrency trading platforms.

"We have to think carefully. People cannot use crypto if they don't have access to reliable internet. Also, their devices have to be up to a certain level. You can't buy crypto if you have a 1999 Nokia phone."

The planned cash transfer system will be similar to Wari, Western Union or Orange Money but based on crypto. An alternative would be to partner with existing platforms like Dash or Lala for a fast and secure cash system.

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