Kenyans brace for cheaper, faster Internet

July 24, 2009
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, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 24 – Players in the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) industry now say that the true benefits of the newly launched SEACOM fibre optic cable will be fully realised in at least two weeks time.

Speaking to Capital Business on condition of anonymity, a number of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) indicated that it’s only after connecting and purchasing bandwidth from SEACOM that their subscribers would fully determine the benefits of the cable.

At least five ISPs attended the live switch of the cable in Mombasa on Thursday, whose news immediately invited curiosity of how much faster local internet connection speeds would become.

“All indications here in Mombasa, as you can see are that the internet is much faster than it initially was,” an employee of one of the ISPs said. “So if we go by what we are experiencing here, then we can safely say that things are about to change tremendously.”

On the other hand consumers will further have to wait until their operator decides to officially launch services using the cable before they start enjoying lower prices.

A live telecast of a speech by Tanzania’s President, Jakaya Kikwete was the highlight of the commissioning of the cable in Mombasa. Mr Kikwete  termed the event as ‘the making of history’ in the region.

“Now a teacher in Tanzania can offer a science class to a huge number of students across the country simultaneously thus saving Tanzania on the shortage of teachers,” the upbeat President Kikwete noted.

SEACOM president Brian Herlihy called on the younger generation to take full advantage of the cable and advance the region to the next level.

“The reality is that the next big world innovator should come from Africa. This population, we must admit, was born with an extra chip in their DNA,” Mr Herlihy said.

The privately funded undersea cable was commissioned at a cost of Sh59 billion in five countries; Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, South Africa and Rwanda which will be connected in the next two weeks.

However the  ‘going live’ of the cable did experience a one month delay which, according to SEACOM Senior Vice President Jean Pierre de Leu,costed the company a huge amount that the private consortium did not want to reveal.

“We had three ships in the sea and each was costing 100,000 dollars per day, can you fathom that?”

He however reassured the additional cost would not be passed on to the end user.
The cable operator said it would be charging operators between Sh3,200 and Sh7,200 per megabyte depending on the capacity a company bought.

Mr de Leu revealed that SEACOM will use the forthcoming Africa Growth and Opportunity Act forum in the country to make an official pitch to government.

Chief Executive of Kenya Association of Manufacturers Betty Maina noted that the launch of the cable would reduce the cost of doing business in the country while providing enormous opportunities.

“The bigger challenge will be to see how the operators pass on this benefit to the end user,” Ms Maina however noted.

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