Apologies for My Absence

Sorry for my long absence. I’ve started working on a telecoms start-up — Vanu-Africa.com — and it has sucked up all of my time. But in a good way.

We at Vanu-Africa (all five of us!) have the passion to provide access to cell phone and data service to rural Africa. In addition, the technology will provide internet wi-fi and battery charging stations. The equipment we use is completely green, can help provide jobs, and open up rural Africa like never before.

Up to now, all African countries have leapfrogged over landlines and embraced the cellular telephone. While Smartphones only make up about 20 percent of the market, more African countries are upgrading to 4g and LTE networks. In fact, in 2013, the number of cellphones in Africa (admittedly a larger population) has surpassed the number of cellphones in the United States. Mobile banking, telemedicine, literacy and other education programs are ramping up.

But in spite of these recent gains, rural Africans have been left behind. Carriers have balked at installing cell towers outside of metropolitan areas because of the expense (~$250k plus recurrent costs for diesel generators and fuel) and what they perceive as a marginal rate of return. Under government pressure and subsidies, carriers in Tanzania and a few other countries are pushing out into this large, if still untested, market that makes up at least 50 percent of Africa’s growing population.

And that’s where Vanu Africa comes in with a couple of solar panels, lithium ion-batteries and a 50-foot pole to provide access up to 1,200 subscribers and a signal that can reach up to three kilometers.

The heart of this technology is the CompactRan. Developed by Vanu Bose (the son of Amr Bose who founded and ran the Bose Audio company), the CRan is literally a network in a box that weighs 15 lbs. and draws only 50 watts of power.  This is no crazy untested machine; in fact, Vanu is installing them in rural Vermont to improve services there.

I will be writing more about the FSOT, so please stay tuned…

Best, Bill


  1. I was in Tanzania about 6 months ago and everyone relies on their cellphone. I can’t imagine how hard work is with those black outs.

    • Yes, mobile phones are ubiquitous in Africa. They’ve completely leap-frogged over landlines and have adapted to the “new” technology. It also enables the government, non-profits and entrepreneurs tto come up with new ways to improve social services, like health, education, agriculture and so forth.

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.