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ADB, Dhiraagu to Expand Internet Access in Maldives Through New Undersea Cable System

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MANILA — The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Dhivehi Raajjeyge Gulhun Public Limited Company (Dhiraagu) have agreed on a $20 million debt financing facility to expand mobile and internet coverage in Maldives by supporting the company’s capital expenditure requirements and helping to finance the SEA-ME-WE 6 Submarine Cable System (SMW6) that will connect the country to the global digital superhighway.

The debt financing includes a recently signed $9.1 million facility as the first tranche to support Dhiraagu’s general capital expenditure and working capital requirements such as network capacity upgrades, expansion of data centers, and mobile service enhancements in and outside the capital Malé. A second $10.9 million will finance further general capital expenditure and funding requirements for SMW6— an undersea cable system that will connect Maldives to Europe and Asia via the Middle East which will be approximately 15,000-kilometer long.

“Mobile and internet connectivity is important for socioeconomic growth and development,” said ADB Private Sector Operations Department Director General Suzanne Gaboury. “It’s crucial for island nations like Maldives, where public services are difficult to provide as the population is spread across numerous islands. This is ADB’s first private sector infrastructure financing transaction in Maldives, which will help to deliver faster and more affordable internet connectivity and be a crucial enabler of private sector investments and regional connectivity.”

The internet and mobile phone penetration rate in Maldives is higher than in most of its South Asian neighbors. However, due to the high cost of providing services to almost 200 inhabited islands across the country, fixed broadband has not yet been rolled out to communities on many of the smaller islands.

“This loan from ADB will help finance some of our critical projects that require foreign currency financing,” stated Dhiraagu Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director Ismail Rasheed. “We are focused on expanding our fibre-to-the-home reach and strengthening our digital infrastructure to ensure that high-speed broadband and high-quality digital services can be enjoyed even at remote islands across the country. Our recent initiative to connect the Maldives to the SMW6 submarine cable system will add further resilience and diversify our global connectivity, bringing Maldives a step closer to becoming a global digital hub.”

Expanded telecom coverage on remote islands of Maldives will provide communities with enhanced access to online services such as education and health care, reduce development gaps between urban and rural areas.

Dhiraagu is the leading digital service provider in Maldives, enriching the lives of the people living in the island nation. The company has enabled 100% mobile coverage across the country and fixed internet coverage available to 85% of Maldives households. A comprehensive range of mobile, internet, data, IPTV, mobile money, and fixed services are offered to their customers.

ADB is committed to achieving a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific, while sustaining its efforts to eradicate extreme poverty. Established in 1966, it is owned by 68 members—49 from the region.