Data, the new cash-cow for telcos

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BY JESSE KISENYA

If we look 10-12 years back we realise that the world was not so advanced and techno savvy. Before the Internet, if you wanted to keep up with the news, you had to walk down to the newsstand when it opened in the morning and buy a local edition reporting what had happened the previous day.

But that world has changed! Nowadays; we are too dependent on the Internet, either as a source of information or means of communication. The Internet has turned our existence upside down. It has revolutionized communication, to the extent that it is now our preferred medium of everyday communication. In almost everything we do, we use the Internet.

With the number of smartphone users doubling in the past two years, the number of data users has doubled resulting to six times higher in data traffic. Smartphones using 3G and 4G networks are already the main platform for internet access in the country, allowing people to bypass the limited reach of the fixed broadband network.

As per a sector report by Communication Authority of Kenya (CA), the number of Internet users in Kenya rose to 26.1 million in the last quarter of 2014 owing to numerous data promotions carried out by service providers during the period. To put this into perspective, this represents an increase of 4.8 million users compared to the same quarter of 2013.

Kenya had 16.4 million internet subscriptions in the last quarter of 2014, a 24.8 per cent growth compared to the same period of the previous year.

Mobile Internet has further become the popular way for users to access internet services. Many people are access the internet on their mobile phones- 0ver 90pc of internet access is via mobile devices.

In Kenya, the average data consumption is growing like the potatoes for McDonald’s fries. Telecommunication companies are on track to ensure that they are able to meet the demand in the market by coming up with competitive data solutions. The operators are shifting from legacy voice-centric strategies to data-driven plans.

With the consumers’ ever-increasing demand for data, telco providers have started investing in data and making sure that they provide quality and value-added services. For instance, early this year, Airtel Kenya launched an aggressive data product dubbed UnlimiNet. The product is destined to offer customers the convenience and freedom to make #UnlimitedConnections to their professional, family and social networks wherever they are.

A week later, Safaricom moved swiftly to counter the onslaught on its turf by Airtel Kenya with an announcement of a 50 percent reduction in data pricing. However, the move did not work out well as they had planned – at least according to the reaction from its customers.

Each year, service providers are investing billions of shillings in support of network expansion, upgrade or modernize and rollout new base stations in an aim to improve overall quality of internet access and data speeds for users. Safaricom has already launched its 4G LTE, which is expected to up the speeds of mobile users resulting to much more that users can do on their mobile devices. Airtel is also in a process of upgrading its network in major cities, making its network 4G ready. Another ISP, Liquid Telecom continues to expand its fibre infrastructure in the counties in a bid to increase Internet access as government and private institutions expand their services to the counties.

One thing to note is that the market presents a great opportunity for Internet service providers to offer competitive proposition as they seek to tap into the thirsty data market segment.

(Kisenya is a Communications Executive at Airtel Kenya (@BabaNanii_)

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