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RealTime IT News

UUNet Nabs 50 Percent of Botswana ISP Interswana

[Gabarone BOTSWANA] Internet networking company UUNET SA has expanded its African Internet presence by acquiring a 50 percent stake in Botswana ISP Interswana for an undisclosed sum. UUNet, already with Internet operations in neighboring Namibia and having installed networks in countries as far away as Nigeria and Swaziland, believes that this deal will provide them with an ideal platform to expand into the Botswana Internet market.

Negotiations for this acquisition began towards the end of last year, according to UUNet SA's Rob Lith, and the companies are already rolling out radio-based Internet connectivity to the Gabarone, Selebi/Phikwe, Serowe/Palapye and Francistown/Maun areas. The Gabarone infrastructure is expected to be operational within a month.

"Our Namibian operation has already reaped rich dividends," says Lith, "and our licensing agreements allowed us to enter the Botswana Internet networking market as well, which will expand our regional presence." Lith cites the upward economic swing of the Botswana economy - GDP grew by over 8.3% during 1999 - as a contributing factor towards the decision to enter the country's Internet market. As a consequence of this growth, Lith explains, international companies operating in the region require reliable Internet connectivity.

The radio-based connectivity is a method employed in the past by UUNet in South Africa, albeit for a limited duration. The company streamed video footage from a surfing event in the Cape last year using a radio link with a fair amount of success and Lith believes that the technology holds great promise for the uptake of the Internet in Africa. The flexibility of the radio link, when looked at in the context of the unreliable nature of fixed line infrastructure in Africa, would appear to favor this as a long term option for the continent.

A major implication of this deal is that an expanded regional presence will eventually allow UUNet users to 'roam' across regional networks. This will mean that businessmen with commercial interests across the national borders will be able to make use of the UUNet networks for e-mail and other Internet-based services whether in Namibia, Botswana or South Africa.

The partnership with Interswana also solved another of UUNet's headaches. Despite UUNet's Botswana licence, the Botswana Telecommunications Corporation had not been providing leased line access as the company required. The deal will allow the company to lever off Interswana's existing lines, providing the company with a foothold in the country.