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Volo’s first customer quickly launches affordable high-speed Internet service in northern Uganda

August 18, 2014  »  BroadbandNo Comment

Just two months ago, we reported on how Silicon Valley-based Volo Broadband is enabling ISPs to use radically lower cost technologies to deliver high-speed fixed broadband, especially for small and medium enterprises, complementing mobile broadband for consumers. At the time, Volo was working on launching a new ISP in Gulu, Uganda. Hardly 12 weeks since first partnering, Volo’s first customer has already launched reliable (and affordable!) Internet service.

Backed by Volo Broadband’s expert design and cloud-based software integration, Zoom Wireless, northern Uganda’s newest Internet Service Provider, is now delivering the most affordable high-speed Internet access to businesses and residences in Gulu, Uganda. In fact, monthly Internet service can be had for 110 000 Ugandan Shillings, or roughly 40 USD.

volo zoom noc

Inside the Volo-powered Zoom Wireless Network Operations Center

A new start-up built based on years of field experience and designed in Silicon Valley, Volo enables ISPs and telecom providers in emerging markets to design and deploy fixed wireless broadband services quickly and profitably. As mentioned above, Zoom Wireless began offering a range of corporate and small business/residential grade fixed wireless services in Gulu, Uganda, within weeks of partnering with Volo.

With Volo’s engagement, the new ISP has designed and deployed a carrier-grade last mile WiFi network. This network is fiber-backed and integrated with the latest cloud-based management software, enabling Zoom Wireless to deploy it with 10 times less capital and operating cost than traditional LTE networks.

Volo’s experts got us up and running from greenfield to market in under 12 weeks. That would have been impossible without them. Now we have the systems to manage the network and the skills to deploy and expand it. We’ve already exceeded our goals for time to market and customer response to our first of a kind affordable fixed wireless service has been rapid.” – Joseph Walusimbi, General Manager of SINFA Uganda LTD and Zoom Wireless

Zoom Wireless is currently offering Internet services for corporate customers with speeds from 1-9 Mbps and small business/residential options of 512 kbps, 1 Mbps, or 3 Mbps at approximately 50% of the rates of their competitors and no usage caps. Custom-managed WiFi services are also available.

While these speeds may seem low in the context of developed world economies, the ability for ISPs or telecom providers to offer these services at affordable prices in emerging and frontier markets like Northern Uganda is transformative. Faster, more reliable access to the Internet is driving real productivity and employment.

This transformation was seen immediately at SINFA Uganda LTD’s Microwork division, where employees perform digital business process outsourcing that is 100% reliant on Internet access to download and upload data. Connected to the Zoom Wireless network in July as an early customer trial, the amount of microwork completed in one month was double their typical output. This boom in productivity meant they were able to not only perform more work but also employ more workers, increasing both revenue, and job opportunities – all things that are vital to economic growth in the region.

With these speeds, the future of the cloud is here. Businesses and consumers can confidently access cloud-based productivity tools that fuel economic growth that include Google Apps, Microsoft Office 365, Quickbooks Online and YouTube. As Volo’s first customer, Zoom Wireless proves the need for and impact of Volo’s services. Building on the success of Zoom Wireless, Volo is now ready to make our cloud-based ISP automation platform available in limited release and work with providers in Africa to demonstrate the speed and profitability that can be achieved with our system and expertise.” – Mark Summer, CEO and co-founder of Volo

Interestingly, a recent independent Quality of Service (QoS) assessment carried out by the Uganda Communications Commission indicated MTN Uganda as the leading network operator for the period February 2014 to June 2014. Large mobile operators like MTN may have thousands of kilometers of fibre infrastructure and hundreds of 3G sites. Yet performance is all relative – does it matter if one ISP or mobile operator is the best of what’s out there if on an absolute level all lack truly affordable and useful Internet service?

Hopefully outside-the-box thinkers like Zoom Wireless can benefit from the hardware and expertise that companies like Volo can provide. In many areas – both urban and rural – the most affordable solution for stable Internet connectivity may very well come from a WiFi network that acts like a fixed broadband connection rather than less reliable (but more commonly deployed) 3G and LTE services .

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