Zambia hints at fifth telco operator

A fifth telco
for Zambia?

Enough room says
industry regulator.

ITWeb Africa

Sunday, Feb 23rd

Safaricom Kenya readies for 'data tsunami'


Kenya’s biggest telco, Safaricom, plans to lay a fibre-optic cable network across the East African country to deliver faster and more efficient internet data services.

The company may even partner with a rival to roll out the network, with talks with Airtel having already taken place, according to Safaricom chief executive Bob Collymore, speaking at the Reuters Africa Investment Summit.

Kenya now has over 6 million internet subscriptions, 86% more than the previous year and up 13.5% in the last quarter alone. Moreover, according to the most recent Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) report, fibre subscriptions are seeing a substantial rise, having grown 66.97% during the final quarter of 2011, and fourfold over the last year.

Added to this growth, the rate of increase in the number of mobile handsets with access to the internet, along with bulging applications for internet connections, have led Safaricom to predict a sharp surge in data demand.

On this basis, the company, which has 5 million data users and 17 million mobile subscribers, is now moving to build its own fibre network so that it no longer has to rely on networks that belong to other carriers.

“The data tsunami will come and it will come maybe 12 months or 18 months from now,” said Collymore.

“The next set of investments is going to be around fibre, because we have a major dependency on fibre.”

The network will take two to three years to put in place, and is designed to improve the firm’s services. Safaricom has been struggling recently with fluctuating data speeds and dropped calls.

The company, of which Vodafone owns 40%, is looking to partner with other operators to lower the cost of rolling out the network, as it has done with its tower-sharing agreements in Kenya.

Collymore said that Safaricom had approached other telcos, but had so far only had talks with Airtel. He hopes to have the network rolled out in the next financial year.

“The industry needs to work on sharing infrastructure,” Collymore said. “We are looking at what would be a sensible model for us so we can do it twice as quickly and at half the cost.”

The arrival of the EASSy, TEAMS and Seacom cables in the last two years has substantially increased the country’s international bandwidth and broadband subscriptions are also growing rapidly.


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