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New broadband service to focus on developing nations

20 июля 2009

Sanjiv Ahuja, former head of France Telecom's Orange mobile phone businesses, has established a new company to supply broadband internet access in developing countries.

Augere is planning to launch its first consumerfocused broadband operations in Asia in October and then expand to Africa early next year.

The company has secured $125m of initial funding from France Telecom, France's leading telecoms company, and New Silk Route and Vedanta Capital, which are New York-based private equity and venture capital firms, respectively.

India-born Mr Ahuja is concentrating on developing countries with large populations that have little or no access to the internet.

Augere's first consumer-focused businesses are due to launch in Bangladesh and Pakistan by October. It is also looking at countries such as Indonesia, the Philippines and Nigeria.

Mr Ahuja, in his first interview since forming Augere, said the London-based company wanted to make broadband internet access available to 1bn people within five years.

Augere's business model rests on charging consumers $10 per month to connect their computers to the internet, which is a similar amount to what many households in emerging markets spend on mobile phone services.

Augere is using the wireless technology Wimax to provide broadband connections to homes and offices, because the fixed-line telecoms networks in developing countries can be poor quality or non-existent.

Mobile phone operators in emerging markets often offer only basic phone and text services, rather than broadband internet access.

Mr Ahuja, 52, will visit Bangladesh today to launch a trial of its broadband internet access services.

"The internet penetration in Bangladesh is less than 1 per cent of the population," he said. "Now in a country that has a population of 160m, it's a great economic opportunity. But it's also a great opportunity to try to make a social impact by providing easy access to the internet."

Mr Ahuja said Augere's country-specific businesses should break even at the level of earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation three years after launch. Five per cent of the pre-tax profit eventually generated by the businesses would be given to charities, he added.

After Bangladesh and Pakistan, Augere is planning to launch broadband operations in Rwanda and Uganda early next year.

Mr Ahuja is Augere's largest shareholder, with a 44 per cent stake. New Silk Route and Vedanta between them own 33 per cent, and France Telecom 22 per cent.


Источник: Financial Times

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