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Kenya Yet to Fully Leverage Broadband Connectivity

Dimitri Diliani, Head of Africa Region for Nokia Siemens Network

According to the recent scorecard on Kenya’s Internet connectivity released by the Nokia Siemens networks, Kenya presented a low connectivity due to low broadband and internet penetration. This is despite adequate mobile penetration and an upsurge in ICT innovations in the country.

“Kenya’s key weakness lies in the low penetration of broadband and internet, which is a currently three million or approximately 8 percent penetration,” according to the scorecard.

This implies poor communications and consumers will be unable to download large files as they will tend to take a lot of time or fail to download at all.

However, recent reports from the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) indicated that about twenty million Kenyans own mobile phones and with an increase of broadband the country is set for enhancement of the communication network – helping to increase business transactions.

The scorecard also pointed out that the sharing of the same infrastructure by different service providers has also led to the poor connectivity.

“Consequently, the country fares very poorly in business infrastructure with a score of 0.01 compared to the leading score of 0.64.” the report points out.

However the Kenya Mobiles, Telecoms and Broadband Forecast, has outlined how Kenya’s telecommunications and broadband market is changing following the integration of three new fibre-optic international submarine cables in 2009 and 2010 by Seacom, TEAMS and EASSy, providing an alternative to limited and expensive satellite bandwidth.

The report says:

“Bandwidth prices have already fallen significantly following the liberalization of international gateway and national backbone network provision in 2005, but they have now fallen by more than 90 percent, enabling cheaper tariffs for telephone calls and broadband internet services.”

Despite these changes, internet service providers (ISPs) have reluctantly passed on the cost savings to end customers, which has prompted the industry regulator, CCK to consider price caps.

An extra aim of the Nokia Siemens Network scorecard is to capture mobile data usage among businesses, as they acknowledge issues relating to how business lines are counted and distinguished from consumer lines, as well as issues relating to the correspondence between “data plans” and data usage.

According to the Nokia Siemens report, the majority of network use is spent on sending messages and browsing. As for devices, the report records increasing levels of mobile access to the internet in Kenya:

“Respondents with internet through mobile phone networks is emerging. Though we don’t have the real figures in Kenya, vast use of the service is experienced in Indonesia, Brazil, China, Russia, Romania with South Africa being the only African country with 88 per cent using the network to browse and read short messages (SMS)” said Mr Dimitri Diliani, head of the company’s African Region.

Kenya’s public sector components proved to be a disappointment, with Kenya receiving an e-government online service index rating of 0.33 on a 0 to 1 scale from the UN e-Government index, which is lower than the median score of 0.49. Consequently, the country’s public sector infrastructure component scores only 0.11, while the public sector usage and skills score is also low at 0.15.

Kenya has in the recent past seen improvements in the telecommunication sector amid the price wars among mobile phone service providers in bid to make a profit and maintain a high number of subscribers. In mid-2010 the war led to the cut of calling rates to 50 percent and others by up to 75 percent. This only left the consumers laughing as they shifted across the rival providers for lower prices.

Mobile internet use has been further bolstered by money transfer service that have since been adopted by all the mobile providers after Safaricom, the leading service provider in the country pioneered the M-pesa service. Currently Kenyans are shopping with their mobile phones.

“This innovation has attracted significant attention from foreign operators with telecom recently making a foray”, said the Nokia Siemens Network Head of Africa Region, Mr Diliani.

Indian firms Bharti Airtel which purchased Zain recently, and Essar’s Yu network as well as France’s Orange are still among the mobile giants that have been attracted to the faster growing market of Kenya with an aim of breaking the market dominance of Safaricom in the country.

About Robert Okemwa Onsare

Robert Okemwa Onsare
Robert Onsare is pursuing Electronics Technology at the University of Eastern Africa, Baraton. He is a Cluster Strategy trained facilitator by Kenya's National Economic and Social Council (NESC). Mr Onsare has been an incubation student at the University of Nairobi, School of Engineering, FabLab, a venture project of the university and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He is a member of the African Technology Policy Studies Network (ATPS) and a published poet. Mr Onsare is based in Kenya.

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