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Newcomer Augere will focus on developing nations

Emerging markets will soon have a new supplier of broadband Internet. France Telecom's former head of mobile business, Indian-born Sanjiv Ahuja, has formed a new company called Augere for just this purpose.

Augere is a new company specialising in broadband Internet for new markets in telecoms. It is looking to start in October with consumer-oriented service in Asia; Pakistandan Bangladesh are believed to be in Augere's sights. A few months after this, in early 2010, Augere expects to be supplying broadband Internet to Africa, where Rwanda and Uganda are considered to be the initial markets.

Founder of Augere is the former chief of mobile business at France Telecom Orange, Sanjiv Ahuja. He will run his new company from London, with the target of 1 billion people having access to broadband Internet by 2014.

As someone originally from India, it seems most appropriate that Mr Ahuja wishes to concentrate on developing markets which currently have little contact with the benefits of the Internet. He is  demonstrating his own commitment to his ideals by supplying 44% of the capital in Augere. He has also utilised his former employment to obtain sponsorship in part (22%) from France Telecom. Further support has come from venture capital firm Vedanta Capital and New Silk Route, a private equity organisation: both are New York-based with total holdings in Augere of 33%. Total funds available have been declared to be US$125 million.

Augere's business model rests on several layers, including:

  • correcting a situation whereby existing mobile operators sometimes only offer phone and text, thereby depriving would-be subscribers of their broadband Internet benefits;

  • implementing WiMAX wireless technology, obviating the need for fixed-line services, which are all too often defective or non-existent in new markets; and

  • introducing a monthly subscription for WiMAX similar to what is currently charged for domestic mobile phone services, US$10 being the intended fee.

Mr Ahuja's timetable - and ultimate financial and social balance-sheet - are busy. Now in Bangladesh witnessing trials of his new operation, he has said: "The Internet penetration in Bangladesh is less than 15 of the population...Now in a country that has a population of 160 million, 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."

He has also forecast that by 2012 his businesses (ie, individual country operations) should break even before deductions. Particularly ambitious is Sanjiv Ahuja's commitment to 5% of earnings going to charity.

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