Broadband In Kenya: Small Businesses, Big Pipes

**free flow thoughts on Broadband in general and the advent of SEACOM cable in Kenya**

The 3 SAT3 countries of South Africa, Egypt and Senegal could be said to have fibre optic connections to the rest of the world or what others may call ‘true broadband’, the rest of the countries in Africa have to contend with VSAT connections or have their internet traffic routed through the above named SAT3 countries.

In the case of Kenya, fibre has been laid by companies such as Kenya Data Networks for communication within the country. The problem has been connecting Kenya to the rest of the world. That is where the bottleneck has been. The government of Kenya has been laying cable in many parts of the country, so is just a matter of time before high speed internet access is made available to urban areas and even smaller towns.

Do note the VSAT connections can have broadband-like speeds, so what we should look at is the connection costs and amount of bandwidth available.
For example, an E1 line (equivalent to the American T1) of 2 Mbps to ISPs costs 4000 USD in Ghana, Benin, Nigeria, 7000 USD in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, 32,000 USD in Cameroon, 25,000 USD in SA.

In residential access Telkom Orange charges about 5990 Ksh (approx. 75 dollars) for home access line of 256 kpbs downloads and 128 kpbs uploads per month. Many people use the Huawei wireless modems E220, E160 particularly in Nairobi with the 3G connections, utilizing a pay-as-you-go plan. Kenyan readers, how much do you pay for your internet access? what kind of speed do you get? Do you have a preferred service provider?

By and large, broadband access is very expensive. There are also other projects like TEAMS and EASSY (Quasi-Govt. consortium: Telkom Kenya/Orange is a member, as is Safaricom and Econet) that plan to connect parts of Africa to the rest of the world by Fibre optic Cable. So far SEACOM has arrived first and the prospect of having more competition could result in the cost coming down. Though that may indeed take time. For now, companies herald the arrival of SEACOM’s fibre optic line because it would mean an increase in productivity for businesses that depend on the internet. For example, there is a young businessman in Nairobi with an IT outsourcing company, with his relatively decent connection, he still has to wait for more than 5 minutes to download a 26MB file. In a few months with the SEACOM cable reaching Nairobi, the same download could take less than a minute and he can move on to other tasks. He has employees who often have to upload files via ftp to servers in the US. With the faster speeds it will make their jobs that much easier. He is not even too concerned about the cost right now, the overarching benefit is well…broadband.

There are other factors such as open access, latency, and reliability, but talking about that would be tantamount to counting chicks before they hatch no?

As always, feel free to chime in with your thoughts in the comments or via twitter if you prefer to be pithy.

17 thoughts on “Broadband In Kenya: Small Businesses, Big Pipes

  1. I’m on Access Kenya’s Access@Home. For KSh 6,960 p.m. I get 256kb/s down 64kb/s up offpeak(6PM-7AM + Weekends) and 32kb/s up+down during peak hours. They sell it as a guaranteed service and I’ve been on it for 4 months now and can attest to the speeds being spot on. Basically I get to use the bandwidth when Access’s corporate customers don’t need it but I’ll be home for it.

    As for preferred provider? Before I landed on Access, I had been to most of the residential providers around. I started out with Telkom’s ADSL and had to leave when they wouldn’t fix the landline. Next was Africa Online who had poor speeds and a crazy 20 minute download limit. After that it was a coupe of wifi providers notably KDN’s Butterfly but had major reliability issues(*wifi*). Did a stint with Safcom 3G but with the usage billing my bill would be many multiples of what I pay Access now. Basically I’m sticking with Access because the speeds are what they say they are + I’ve had no downtime for the past 5 months(~when I signed up with them).

  2. @ John Karanja, thanks for the link!

    @BGM 6960Ksh is rather high, I am glad that Access Kenya is definitely keeping their (ad)word. I remember reading about your woes on 69mb, I truly hope things change in a big way this year. Thank you for your input 🙂

  3. Getting an affordable and reliable internet connection in Kenya is quite an issue.
    AccessKenya seems a good option, but their coverage radius is restrictive…

    I am with Zain’s Unlimited internet connection for Ksh 3,000 per month. It’s not fast, but I find it tolerable since I live out of town where there’s no WiMAX or Wifi. Plus, it offers me all the mobility I need as I move around with my notebook computer.

    With the advent of Broadband, I shall still prefer mobile broadband – GSM 3G, EVDO or mobile WiMAX 16e.

  4. Hi, I would like to know more about fibre optic and how I can benefit from it as a form of business and if possible starting when.How much should I be able to have as starting capital?

  5. We’re paying 6000ksh/month for 256kb but I’m sure it’s shared, as many of you understand. In the developing world you can get ‘up to Xkb/sec’ b/c it’s shared bandwidth, unprotected. So it just depends on how many people are using that same bandwidth at any given time.

    In the Developed world, when you see ‘up to Xkb/sec’ that is b/c it slows slightly the further you are from the distribution box.

  6. I have also been on several ISPs but frankly noen has met my expectation. Safcom 3G has been the best in terms of speed, but the cost is way too high as they charge per MB, even on their so-called bundles.

    I am pleased that BGM found Access Kenya to be ‘spot-on’ because I had innumerable problems with them. The speeds were hardly what I had paid for and I experienced so much downtime that I had to stop the subscription all together. I guess I was not as fortunate as BGM.

    I am now opting to try Tangerine, and will see how reliable that one is.

  7. @SuperDude: So how did you find tangerine?

    Anyone else who can testify to the said Accesskenya speeds? I’ve hardly heard of anyone else give them such a positive review…

  8. Hi everyone,
    I have been a user of Tangerine since they rolled out last year. this guys have been consistent. Unlike other ISPs i have connected before this has provided quality. Their support is also good in comparison to the rest of the ISPs

  9. Hmmm, what i have come to realize regarding Kenyan ISPs is that most of them make promises that they barely deliver on. Words like these are thrown loosely around…”super fast speeds” “dedicated connections” “guaranteed speeds” “quality”…*(put your sales pitch here), etc etc.

    But the truth of the matter is that they are just obsessed with the $$$$, thats all you are to them just “X” more Ksh in their accounts.

    Btw, anyone know of how the zuku service is? they have recently slashed their prices.


  10. I’m on Access Kenya’s Premium @Home package and the speed has deteriorated drastically from when I signed up (~6 months ago).

    Their customer service staff are very fond of making promises that they do not deliver on (we’ll call you back – they don’t, we’ll send a team – they don’t, double the speeds on weekends and at night – not true) AND their accounts department behave like they’re using Powerpoint to do their accounts. They keep sending bills for invoices we’ve already paid for! Aaaargh!

    Very disappointed, but from the comments above it seems they’re all the same…

  11. Access Kenya, are the best ISP that you can join. their services are to the letter and they are 42% a head of other companies which are I S P’s they have good services.

  12. Access Kenya have their woes but their understanding of the data market is amazing and have very good packages to choose from. i love that they have a flat fee and that you can incorporate a wireless router for multi-usage. I have used them now for 18 months and i do enjoy reasonable service. Tangerine will of course offer fabulous service for now because they have like 80 to 90 clients. so there is mad bandwidth available. let them have the 4000 that Access have then we talk.

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