After 3 years of blood, sweat and tear-shedding preparation, Emeka can finally say that his pet project, Ekovolt is live. What’s Ekovolt? It’s a telecommunications company founded by (you guessed it) Emeka Ebo that’s focused on delivering internet access to households and SMEs in underserved communities. In Emeka’s words, “We want to play a major part in providing affordable and reliable internet access especially in disadvantaged communities”. How do they hope to do this? Three words – TV white space.
I’m not going to go all techno-babble on you because I don’t understand it completely myself, but white space is unused broadcasting frequencies that TV networks leave unoccupied to avoid interference with other channels. These “spaces” can be used to deliver broadband internet because the spectrum is similar to what is used for 4G networks.
Broadband generated from white space can cover up to 10 kilometers, cutting easily through barriers like walls, buildings and vegetation. So, I think it’s a pretty neat way to make internet access available to users in rural areas – considering the TV frequencies are present, and lying fallow.
Providing internet access via white space is pretty much uncharted territory in these parts, but Emeka is confident he can find a way to make it work. Moreso, now that Ekovolt has penned a partnership with Microsoft to deliver cloud services to its customers.
“We are looking at TV white space to tackle rural broadband connectivity heads on. This is a noble global initiative and we are proud and humbled at the same time to play a part in it and bring it home”, said Emeka, about the partnership.
This is not the first time Microsoft is partnering with an ISP to make white space-based broadband available in Africa though. They joined forces with Ghana’s Spectra Wireless to launch Africa’s first commercial TV white space network. And there’s Mawingu Networks which caters to the bottom of the demographic pyramid in Kenya.
A B.Sc. in Computer Science from Lincoln University, Pennsylvania, an M.Sc. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Johns Hopkins University, and a 15-year career at Verizon all tell me that Emeka’s no newbie.
Right now, he lives in Washington DC with his wife and business partner, Nathalie Gogue as well as two kids and it’s not been a walk in the park because he’s ploughed his earnings from Verizon into Ekovolt, sometimes moonlighting as an Uber driver to keep the lights on. That takes an amount of grit that you can’t find in most people and Emeka’s done it all with the help of a team that works out of Maryland, Lagos.
All Ekovolt plans are unlimited and they also provide enterprise solutions like app and web hosting, online workspace and data backup. Their Volt Premier plan is designed for residences and it’s priced at N12,000, while Volt Business, which is for well…businesses, offers the same unlimited data at higher speeds for N25,000.
Right now, Ekovolt’s services are available only in some parts of the Lagos mainland, but this is a strategic decision. In his words, “Our focus right now is to hit the region where we’ve found the highest number of SMEs lacking reliable Internet services and that’s Lagos Mainland. We plan to later extend to the Island, however we need to completely nail down the Mainland first off.”
I wish them all the best.