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Facebook and AMN Present at the TIP Summit

AMN and Facebook gave a joint presentation at the inaugral summit of the Telecom Infra Project (TIP) at the Facebook campus in Menlo Park, California on Nov 1, 2016.

Entitled "Connecting 1 Billion Unconnected", AMN CEO, Michael Darcy, spoke about the challenges of creating a scalable and sustainable solution to address the global problem of rural connectivity, together with Heather Marquez and Emre Tepedelenlioglu, both of Facebook, who spoke about the work done by Facebook in support of AMN to process ultra-high resolution satellite image data to identify unconnected towns and villages in DRC, Cameroon and beyond.

Michael Darcy explained that connecting the unconnected is not, primarily, a problem of technology - "we have the technology to connect every village in Africa with 4G" - the challenge is in creating sustainable solutions which can be scaled. The many different aspects of the complete solution needed to solve this problem include:
  • Site Selection (finding unconnected locations and people)
  • Scalability (up to 1 billion globally in a reasonable timeframe)
  • Sustainability (i.e. cash neutral with low ARPUs/populations)
  • Affordable user equipment (<$5) and usage (<$0.05/min)
  • Deep penetration (isolated villages of less than 100 homes)
  • Technology (access technology, energy systems, transmission)
  • Capex efficient (scale to less than $10 per person connected)
  • Debt funding on a large scale (such as EIB, WB/IFC)
  • Operations (high volume, service availability, service quality)
  • Regulatory (license, spectrum, SIMs etc.) 
AMN has developed highly-efficient solutions which require far less capex than conventional base stations to serve small rural communities with populations from above 5,000 people to below 1,000 people. Since January 2014, AMN has deployed rural base stations in Benin, Cote d'Ivoire, Cameroon, DRC and Guinea, and will launch in Nigeria and Liberia early in 2017.

AMN is highly appreciative of the support it receives from Facebook, including the investments made by Facebook to develop software which processes ultra-high resolution (30cm) satellite image data to identify individual buildings and cluster these into towns and villages. The Facebook software then uses connectivity information from Facebook (based on the GPS coordinates from which users have accessed the Facebook application on a mobile device) to identify towns and villages without connectivity.

AMN is currently rolling out more than 1,000 base stations in DRC and Cameroon, funded through AMN equity and long-term debt from the European Investment Bank (EIB). With the completion of the current phase of the roll-out, AMN is processing more than 5 million voice minutes per month from rural villages in sub-Saharan Africa.

AMN and Facebook together have plans to roll-out 4G (LTE) services, as well as current 2.75G (voice, SMS and EDGE) services, throughout sub-Saharan Africa.