Seeding the market with bandwith

When the near-mythical $100 Laptop finally arrives in Rwanda, Greg Wyler will already have Wi-Fi hotspots waiting. Wyler founded Terracom, Rwanda's only fixed-line telco, four years ago and bought out the reigning monopoly, RwandaTel, two years later. In the process, he has slashed the cost of broadband from upward of $1,000 a month to just $60, using a combination of solar-powered cell-phone towers and bushels of EVDO wireless cards (bought in bulk from Verizon). Wyler began by wiring Rwanda's schools, using a network of thin-client machines connected via DSL and run on additional solar cells. Terracom now earns revenue from the government while seeding its next generation of customers. "It's a challenge," Wyler says, "because you can create IT faster than you can create mental acceptance of it here. [But] if you give a kid a computer, they will figure it out. It responds to their input, and they in turn respond and grow along with it." And so will Terracom: Wyler is preparing to expand its footprint into Nigeria, Kenya, and the Congo.

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