iWayAfrica sees way for cheaper Internet

May 27, 2011
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, NAIROBI, Kenya, May 27 – With Internet access costs in Africa still high, some ICT players are now recommending the use of competing and complementing telecommunication technologies that can deliver affordable, unlimited connectivity at faster speeds to the end consumers.

iWayAfrica Chief Marketing Officer Sibusiso Mngadi argued on Friday that this would reduce the over reliance of one type of technology such as the undersea fibre optic cable, wireless or VSAT and ensure seamless Internet connection for the customer at lower costs.

"The novelty around fibre in East Africa and other parts of Africa is waning as people realise that fibre is one of the enabler of connectivity access and cannot therefore deliver the desired results on its own," he told Capital Business.

Kenya for instance has in the last four years seen three undersea fibre optic cables land at its coastal town of Mombasa which initially caused excitement and expectations that they would translate in cheap Internet costs.

Despite the increased bandwidth capacity however, this has not necessarily been the case and Internet users have consistently complained that the operators have failed to lower costs.

"We are not surprised that the excitement around fibre in East Africa and other parts of the continent is waning because naturally, we should be using a hybrid of technologies in order to enhance the offering to the customer," Mr Mngadi admitted.

The failure of the cable to significantly bring down costs is a pointer that a hybrid system needs to be adopted by all service providers, he added.

The firm\’s Head of Business for the Kenya operation Kenneth Munyi concurred pointing out that too much emphasis on technology for Africa\’s connectivity solutions,  has resulted in huge investments being made in telecommunications infrastructure but have not been reflected in the connectivity costs.

"Before we had fibre, we were excited; we said that when it comes, we will be able to have all the solutions. But here we are with many networks, huge infrastructural expense but customers on the streets are not satisfied," Mr Munyi regretted.

However, if this hybrid trend was adopted, he forecasted that besides resulting in lower access costs, it would drive ICT service providers to focus on improving the customer experience.

This would particularly be crucial in a continent where Internet penetration averages 5.4 percent with only 12 countries having a (penetration) rate of over one percent and where business\’ spend on ICT runs into billions of shillings. For instance this year, the budget is projected to be more than $25 billion in 2011.

The two managers spoke on the sidelines of an event to mark the official merger of Afsat Communications, MWEB Africa and Africa Online-which were all acquired by Telkom South Africa- into iWay Africa Services.

The combination of the strengths and capabilities of each of the internet service providers which offers data and internet connectivity on VSAT (Very Small Aperture Terminal) services and WiMax is expected to assist the company to offer access solutions to its customers across the continent.

With Kenya as it bedrock, the company hopes to enhance its footprint in the more than 30 countries it operates in.

To start with, iWayAfrica Kenya has given away free connectivity and access equipment, free installation and a free month\’s service to 15 non-governmental organisations as one way of sharing its data experiences, products and services with the communities it operates in.

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