Archive for the ‘broadband’ Tag

Fibre Optic Cables and Internet Bandwidth in Kenya : The Basics, part I

This is fibre optic cables 101. The basics, introduction, definitely not for the experts. Read on if you are, or not.

I always use the analogy of a water pipe to try and describe the much-talked about fibre optic cables and bandwidth. It is until we understand what the basics are, that we can begin to get a clue on what the fuss is all about. Then we shall fully embrace the potential that we are sitting on as a country.

Imagine we have water pipes running from a fresh water well to our homes. The well has an inexhaustible supply of water, so the only limit to the quantity of water flowing into your home is the size of the pipe delivering the water. You are at liberty to connect a pipe(s) of whatever size, depending on your needs and ability. The size or quantity of the pipes used do not matter, the well cannot run out of water. Also understand that the need for water in your home is essential, whatever the you use it for.

In the Kenya of yester years, we had “small, limited capacity” pipes to connect us to the rest of the world (or well). These pipes carried data (or Internet) and voice traffic from Kenya to the well. The pipes were used to take care of all bi-directional traffic into/out of Kenya. The “pipe capacity” is what is called “bandwidth”, and in the past we used satellites (or small, limited capacity pipes) to connect us to the world (or the well as described above).

After alot of twiddling of fingers, hand wringing, foot dragging and general indecison, we managed to lay bigger “pipes” from Mombasa to various parts of the world, by inter-connecting with existing bigger “pipes” regionally.

The only thing that has changed is now we have bigger capacity pipes (called sub-marine or undersea fibre optic cables) from three suppliers, i.e. Seacom, TEAMS and Eassy. All these bandwidth suppliers are selling their bandwidth capacity to resellers, called Internet Service providers (or ISPs). The ISPs then further resell the bandwidth to you and me, the consumer. Do not worry about the complex technology connecting you and the world, that is not important, for now.

Note: They are called “submarine” or “undersea” cables because from Mombasa the cables are laid on the seabed all the way to the inter-connection points farther afield.

The immediate effect of this limitless capacity is we should now, theoretically, be able to have faster and cheaper connections to the world. Our international voice calls should be clearer, without static or the annoying delay. Our Internet experience should be richer, faster and we should be able to access bandwidth-intensive applications like streaming video with no delay. Downloads should be faster, saving us time and money. Uploads should be faster, saving us time and money. Anything interactive, like video-conferencing, should be a breeze.

NOTE: I keep saying “should”, because the reality for you and me may not be any different from the recent past.

OK, now you ask, so what? What is the big deal? Why all the fuss? So what if we have superb speeds due to the limitless bandwidth? How does this change my life, or yours? How does it change my grandmother’s life, back in my village? How does it change the small or the big commercial farmer’s life? Or the student, or politician, or small or big business owner? Or the matatu owner, or priest in your church? Or the government hospital or the goverment? Now that we have an almost limitless bandwidth capacity, what does it really mean for the ordinary Internet user like you and me?

Will this capacity create jobs? Change the economy? How? When? What has been the impact / experience in other countries? Could this be another over-hyped technological farce?

Worry not, I will hold your hand and walk you through this. This will form part II of our discussion.

Let me have your feedback below.

Free Internet Until Jan 4th, from KDN Butterfly

The nabobs that be at Parkside Towers, KDN HQ, looked across the city scape, and said, let us give them free Internet until 4th Jan. So KDN is extending their Butterfly service for free as a year end bonus for 2009. They are hoping you will remember this gesture of goodwill and sign up for their service, if you haven’t already.

My only wish is that the KDN Customer Scare, sorry, Customer Care nabobs can look across the city scape and say, let us offer them the best customer experience, let us create stark-raving mad evangelists from our customers, let us make them so happy, they will shed tears of utter joy, let us organize our Customer Service machinery and indeed the entire organization, to serve them best, and let’s see the business balloon, but no. That is too much for them to do. Twirling their fingers 24-7 is a better way to spend their important time.

I wish the Tech Support nabobs would look across the cityscape and say, let us over-support our customers. Let us pro-actively manage our network, let us tweak, look under the hood, test, re-test, simulate, and otherwise anticipate all possible tech problems. I wish they could say, let us quickly and firmly deal with any issue that escapes our attention and affects the customer, hence making them happy and productive. But no, that is too much. Twirling their fingers 24-7 is a better way to spend their important time.

You then wonder why our economy is stuck! The landing of the under sea FOC is not the end all be all, that is just humongous bandwidth to be hawked.

Service delivery is king! Just do it, KDN! Period.

Vote for Your Kenyan ISP

Fellow Kenyans……….we are chronicling the build up of post fibre optic cable connections. We would like you to vote for your ISP below. This is more of a poll to see WHO is providing WHAT. So go ahead and vote. Also put your comments to enlighten us. Talk about sales service, connection, setup, configuration, after sales service, and the service delivery in general.

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Bring it out in the open, so that the ISPs can start waking up! Thanks in advance.

Broadband Kenya: Dr. Bitange Ndemo Cracks The Whip

Our beloved government has woken up and smelt the coffee. We need real broadband, not lofty adverts by ISPs about how “connected” they are and how many kilometres of fibre thay have laid in various places.

Information Permanent Secretary Dr Bitange Ndemo said on Tuesday that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) were still making obscene profits from the high cost of bandwidth despite the operationalisation of the fibre optic cables.

“They are being mischievous. We have been talking about $6000 per Megabyte, telling us that they are lowering to $600 which from our calculation their payback would be in less than six months that is not what we want,” he stressed.

It was widely believed that with the coming live of the SEACOM and The East African Marine System (TEAMS) cable, the cost of bandwidth would come down significantly but this has not happened.

Yes Daktari, read the riot act. We need real broadband connections, not advertising and endless “promotions” hoodwinking us to buy “bundles” and all manner of monthly contracts. When you get home, fire up your PC and connect, nothing. You actually miss your old dial-up line, at least it worked at a certain low speed, and you got what you expected.

“We have many options but it’s always good to leave the competition to push the pricing down, but it doesn’t the regulator (Communication Commission of Kenya), would step in,” the PS emphasised. Mr PS, please ensure the CCK steps in now.

Dr. Ndemo did not stop there, read on.

He said the argument that the providers have increased capacity for the same pricing is not valid since majority of Kenyans cannot access affordable and after internet connectivity.

“That is nonsense. If Kenyans are not able to afford, then I’m not happy because for me to ensure that the economy grows it is to make broadband available to Kenyans. But now it cannot be used, not many people have this in their homes,” he complained.

Yes Dr, we need to cut out this nonsense!

Moving on, we also need Kenyans to stop sitting on their laurels and do something about connecting themselves to the information superhighway, creating content and addding value to the body of knowledge. Being mere consumers of pre-packaged, pro-Western content is unhealthy.

That is my 2-cents worth, what is yours? Comment below.

Is Safaricom Internet Screaming Fast?

Just got off the superhighway using Safaricom Bambanet, and my tyres are still smoking! I still cannot believe the speeds I experienced! Have the speeds increased, nay, skyrocketed? It was too fast for a typical Kenyan like me who is used to snail speed Internet.

What is the experience of you Bambaneters? How is the speed? Is your airtime getting finished too fast? Does anyone know how Safaricom calculate the actual download / upload usage?

Some users are aghast at the speed, not of the connection, but of the airtime being depleted at speeds greater than those inside the fibre optic cable.

Enlighten us people. What’s your experience?

Internet in Kenya

Fellow Kenyans! At least that is how I will be starting my speeches after my
inaugration…..but I digress. I wanted to create a new forum for the user
experience with Internet access in Kenya. Be it at home, at work, on the move, in your village, in a cyber, in school, in a cyber in the village, on your mobile device etc

Let us share and educate each other. Post in the comments section below and I shall update the post with the comments, editing for clarity, brevity and to remove repetition.

I would like to chronicle pre and post fibre optic cable Internet connectivity in Kenya.

NB: Am very keen on Linux users….am told you can “tweak” your connection speeds in Linux.

I shall go first….I work from my balcony at home (but I don’t say). Currently am using KDN residentail broadband solution, a.k.a Butterfly. They have installed a wireless modem in my crib, my laptop is wi-fi ready (of course), so I hook up from the balcony, bila shoes! They have various packages ranging from 100/- to 5K, I think. The difference is the speeds and duration of connection. Am currently on 2,990/- for a whole month, unlimited! Contact Icon Telesec, the service resellers and installers on info@icon.co.ke or +254 20-386-0023 (office)

If only KDN could update their Butterfly website with these details, I would be happier. While I have yet to achieve the speeds Joe Gathu speaks of, am happy with the price / service. Once the FOC down the road from my crib is hooked to our gatehouse, am sure bandwidth will improve. We are currently on a wireless backhaul to the KDN network.

So post your expreriences below, and I will pick the items and update this post categorized by provider. Also feel free to email me your guest blog post for consideration as a full post on the same topic.

Happy surfing!

Balcony BroadBand

Fellow Kenyans, wireless broadband has arrived on my balcony! Those who have been following my quest for wireless broadband on that my balcony (bila shoes) will know I have searched high and low. The problem with Kenyan service providers is they tend to spend alot of time launching lofty products, with lots of shock-n-awe, glitz, pomp and ceremony. They then take all available stands in exhibitions, shows, malls, and so on and show off their latest services with jaw-dropping demos that leave you “seeing stars”.

Now try calling the sales office, and you usually get indifferent sales staff who read from some print out and churn out jargon about Wimax, and fibre optic cable, and wireless-this-wireless-that, they talk of ADSL and upload and download and 256kbps and 512kbps and 1MB, and DHCP and WLAN and stuff…… Bottom line, they know zilch! Between the demo staff and sales staff, lots of sales are made. Try the after sales service (if any).

So it was with lots of trepidation that I filled some forms and had technicians hook me up to a nifty, ADSL modem, with wireless capability in my sitting room. Stay tuned as I kick off my shoes and hit the balcony with the laptop. Ahhhh, broadband on the balcony, bila shoes. I will keep you posted and also how you can have these people close the digital divide for you.

What your comment on residential broadband using FTTH? That is fibre-to-the-home.

Review of Fibre Optic Cable in East Africa — Part 1

The much-talked about digital divide has left a yawning gap between the Eastern African countries and the rest of the world. A lot has been done by national telecoms companies, mostly former lethargic government-owned entities. They have kept us connected to the world using satellite links. Though stable, we have to contend with high costs. Higher bandwidths usually means more money shelled out. The cost of satellite links is high, and their reliability and bandwidth not the best. We shall retain the links as back up, since even under sea cables get broken or cut by deep sea trawlers, if not under sea quakes. Time has now come for us to cross the chasm and leap into the information superhighway. Hello world!

Not to be left behind, the Kenyan government, inspired by a growing economy hungry for information has spurred growth in the telecoms sector like never before. For once we have an enabling and responsive political climate. This has meant the government can now attract top-notch professionals to steer the ship across the digital divide. The Ministry of Information and Communications is now very visible and its PS is very vocal and energetic on matters fibre optic cable connection to Mombasa. The Kenya ICT Board on its part is the vehicle driving the ICT dream all the way to my village. I hope my people shall appreciate all these efforts.

We have many home grown companies that are complementing Telkom Kenya’s efforts to connect us. Telkom on their part are now a leaner and more efficient outfit, thanks to a restructuring and eventual sale to France Telecom. Their service provision has gone a notch higher, inspired no less by emerging start ups hungry for their business. Invariably, the battle for the fibre cable connection has gone a notch higher thanks to the new entrants.

First off the block was Telkom who laid a fibre between Mombasa City and Nairobi City. This was unprecedented, and Kenya Data Networks (KDN)matched them, with a similar link. The two went on to expand the fibre mesh within the cities and now it is common to have lit fibre in your door step. Not to be left behind, Jamii Telecom took the battle to the streets of Nairobi with their KES. 300 million Nairobi Metro Fibre. This mesh aims to bring fibre-to-the-home (FTTH). Lastly the Kenyan government through its Fibre Optic National Network (FONN) is laying fibre to the entire country, connecting villages and erstwhile remote places to the hubs in Nairobi and the landing spot in Mombasa. The Kenyan map has never looked better.

The missing link is Mombasa to the world …. but not to worry. We have two competing cable teams, TEAMS (The East African Marine System) and EASSY (East African Submarine Systems). The first, TEAMS, is a joint venture between the Govt of Kenya and Etisalat, the UAE national telecom operator. We should be hooked via Fujairah, UAE by Q1 of 2009. The Alcatel-Lucent cable laying ship is working round the clock to ensure this dream is realized. The other, Eassy, is an effort by the telecoms companies to get a share of the pie by laying a submarine cable all the way to Durban, South Africa. The more the merrier!

In part 2 we shall look at what all this cable being laid means for the Kenyan people and economy.

Fibre Optic Cable, Broadband, Wimax, Wi-fi

Here in Kenya, we are the last frontier in the digital divide. We are happy to say though that all is not lost in the struggle to emancipate ourselves from lack of submarine FOC to our shores. Thanks to lack of visionary planning, silly politics and big brother attitude, we are submarine FOCless. Just when we were beginning to get frustrated and snail-pace connections were killing us with hefty bills, there is a flurry of announcements. Submarine FOC is coming our way. All of a sudden we have like 3 cable laying ships competing to hook up our shores to the global digital village.

Meanwhile, in Kenya the ISPs are working very hard. We have all manner of supposed broadband, from Africa Online’s Infinet to KDNs Butterfly. The Kenyan government not being left in the zeal to connect the villages with FOC and setting up digital kiosks / centers, known as Pasha. While on cables, fiber of otherwise, Jamii Telecom is finishing its Nairobi metro fiber network. In essence if the ISPs in Nairobi were reading this (usually they don’t bother), they would have found out where I live, asked Jamii to extend the fiber from the roadside outside my house to a wiring closet at the basement, and then hooked my apartment. I in turn would terminate the connection to my secure wireless broadband router, and retire to my balcony and surf, barefoot.

I have alot of faith in the entrepreneurial skills of Kenyans, so do not disappoint me.