Review of Fibre Optic Cable in East Africa – Part 2

Fast forward to Q2 of 2009, and Kenya has finally joined the ranks of the information superhighway, thanks to two submarine fibre optic cables, dubbed TEAMS an EASSY safely in Mombasa.

Post Update!

Thanks to Seth’s comment in Part 1, SEACOM (a Mauritius based company, that provides high capacity bandwidth linking business and communities) is laying a cable that will link the East Coast of Africa linking Southern and East Africa, Europe and South Asia. There is a landing at Mombasa for the 1.2TB/s capacity cable, to enable high definition TV, peer to peer networks, IPTV, and surging Internet demand. Pricing will be significantly lower than current satellite or fibre pricing cable. Bring it on SEACOM!

Read part 1 here for details and comment. What does it mean for internetpreneurs like me who want to hog broadband bandwidth from the balcony? What does it mean for technology companies in Kenya? What about education institutions? Once the mystical fibre optic cable lands in Mombasa, Kenya will never be the same again. At least that is what pundits tell us. We are assured of bottom rock priced high-speed Internet, access to the vaults that hold all the information we could ever need. But is price the issue?

What Kenya needs badly is last mile infrastructure, the home stretch. We have invested heavily in backbone transmission capacity from Mombasa where the cable is landing to the rest of the country. Telkom Kenya, KDN, Jamii Telkom and the Govt of Kenya through FONN is ensuring every village will have lit fibre a stone throw away. Many large institutions (hospitals, research institutes, education institutes etc have their own campus fibre ring).

Last mile ….. The question is how then do we interconnect my village ePasha center to the world? The options are limitless, with wireless providing some of the best options. Am seeing some home grown companies offering my village connectivity to the backbone cable. We could use wireless e.g WiMAX to deliver the information to my coffee farm. The options are many, and we shall not be re-inventing the wheel. In another part of this series we shall look at what the ISPs and PDNOs are offering.

The biggest boom is however expected in the BPO sector. Already the operators in this sub-sector have formed an association to better front their cause and case. It is expected that with a large pool of young, educated Kenyans with impeccable English (unlike mine), this area will take off. But we need to remember that this industry is very competitive and we shall be late entrants. I still think that we can do alot of call centres (alot of experience is being developed especially by the GSM operators), back office operations, software technology parks, and other outsourcing jobs that can keep our people happy and gainfully employed. We can now comfortably have hosting companies and managed server farms, offering crucial redundancy and disaster recovery for others in the rest of the world. Ah! it shall truly be exciting times in Kenya.

While we celebrate the landing of the cable (I cannot wait for that day), we need to think ahead and create opportunities for our economy, so the landing of the cables at Mombasa is not the end of the story.

TEAMS and EASSY, we await. In part 3 we shall look indepth at BPO, calls centres, software technology parks, cyber villages (and cafes), KeKoBi, and the Kenya ICT Boards role.

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11 comments so far

  1. Peter Njenga on

    I have been reading some interesting things about WiMAX that Intyel Corporation is fronting.
    This is a very nice initiative. I’d say a million times better than WiFi and GSM Internet. I believe it is more cost-effective for the providers.
    Soon, we shall have WiMAX enabled laptops and mobile devices.
    Imagine how good it’ll be to be connected right inside your house (I compare this to the convenience of using your TV or Radio wherever you are) without seeking hot spots.
    The bandwidth is larger, the economies of scale are obvious for the providers.
    WiMAX is the way to go.

    Read about Intel WiMAX here:
    http://www.intel.com/technology/wimax/index.htm
    http://www.wired.com/techbiz/it/news/2007/09/intel_wimax

    Nice blog and cheers!

  2. mrkarugi on

    Thanks Peter! My blog lives for encouraging user comments. We need to create alot of awareness on these emerging technologies and especially how they will directly impact you and me.

    The delivery of reliable service to the end user is really wanting here in Kenya. We seem to have alot of products and offerings in the Kenyan market. Whet we need is critical reviews to inform and educate the people, so that they can make informed decisions.

    Otherwise the local user is held ransom by big corporations with great customer disservice fronting empty shells.

  3. vince on

    Its exciting that the fibre optic cable is going to change kenya in a big way.My only question is what will happen to the cyber cafe business?Is there hope for the business owners or is it time to pack and leave.I need advice.

    • Guru on

      It’s indeed exciting! Do not worry about the cyber cafe business, its not going anywhere. The economic factors in play here mean that they shall remain. In fact the fibre optic cable shall mean more and cheaper bandwidth available for the cybers. What is important is for the cyber owners to see what other services they can offer alongside browsing. You have a network with 20 PCs or so, customers are browsing 7am to 7pm, what then do you do with the cyber infrastructure after 7pm? Lock up and go home? I think we need to get creative and have 24-hour business running, otherwise the cable will not mean anything for us. The challenge is not getting the cables to Mombasa, Seacom will land in April and go live in June, it is what we do with all this bandwidth that matters.

  4. Rinkline on

    “…Is there hope for the business owners or is it time to pack and leave…” Guru is right, I have done a surveyed of my home area and decided to set up a Cyber Cafe, the need for internet services is beginning to be felt Upcountry. Though the business may not be very good in Nairobi, Upcountry it is a viable project, a little patience to have people get to know computers and you are up and running.
    “…The challenge is not getting the cables to Mombasa, Seacom will land in April and go live in June, it is what we do with all this bandwidth that matters…” AMEN!! Right perspective!!
    “…what then do you do with the cyber infrastructure after 7pm?…” Please, make suggestions, am in the Cyber Business and Currently I do exactly as you say, “Lock up and go home!”
    The LAST MILE infrastructure especially Upcountry is very bad or plain missing, this will be a huge factor in how well the Fibres are utilized

    • Guru on

      Thanks for your comment!

      If you have the cyber infrastructure, say 10 to 20 PCs, on a LAN, with high-speed dedicated Internet, what would you do with it after the “normal” customers are gone? If we can outside the box and see how to utilise this, we are well on our way to making the proverbial Internet millions. I don’t have specific answers, but I have some suggestions —— transcription services, text editing, data processing, bulk word processing, data input, paid surveys, paid online research, grid computing, digitization of records, creating local content etc I like the one on local content.

      Read here http://www.cio.com/article/463660/Kenya_ICT_Board_Invites_Local_Online_Content_Developers

      Research on these areas and think how you would create a business case, and then get moving. The time for hanging out on Facebook or Skype, Yahoo! Messenger and Google Talk idle chat is over, we need to evolve and harness the power of the Internet, else we shall contiunue to be consumers of foreign fodder.

      These are just my thoughts, what are yours?

      • Wimbo on

        “what would you do with it after the “normal” customers are gone?”

        Make it available for kids / students to play LAN games. They’re happy to do this all night, if you’ll let them, and even happier to do it at a reduced rate for “after hours”.

  5. Rinkline on

    “… —— transcription services, text editing, data processing, bulk word processing, data input, paid surveys, paid online research, grid computing, digitization of records, creating local content…” Allow me some time to digest your thoughts then come up with something.
    Thanks alot!!

  6. johnny on

    @rinkline& vince on the issue of “…Is there hope for the business owners or is it time to pack and leave…”
    I would agree with rinkline,cybers are still here to stay,depending on where you are located though,if its in the suburbs…i think it might be time to pack and leave coz thats where FTTH(fibre to the Home) would begin OR HAS BEGAN+(zuku+WIMAX+kdn+butterfly etc are there already i guess)-most isps are more intent on covering kitisuru,kileleshwa cbd etc first…n other such places ) i guess,BUT 4upcountry,Nairobi CBD and “ghetto” areas like where i live then its time to gear up for business,why because it one thing 4smone to kam surf@ur cyber pay &leave and quite another 4them to go out in the shops n buy a computer+signup with soMe ISP.
    furthermore content delivery is gonna change now;from simply mail to video chats,online movies,lots of you tube….anyone who sees this like i do?

  7. Rinkline on

    @ Johnny
    I DO. Thats why I am investing in one upcountry,only that the fibres are taking too long to go live. We are a patient lot and will keep waiting.

  8. JOHNNY on

    BROADBAND NYUMBANI!!!


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