Archive for the ‘internet’ Tag

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

As discussed in part I, Kenya and the East African countries, recently joined the rest of the world in high speed, limitless bandwidth connection. This is thanks to the sub-marine fibre optic cables landed at Mombasa. So the BIG question that arose, was, now what? Or so what?

In the digital global village, high speed connectivity heralds a new dawn, hitherto not possible due to the limited capacity connections we had. New breakthroughs emerge as the world is able to communicate in a faster and more reliable way, thanks to the technology now available. The technology itself is not new, but the availability is.

For a growing economy like ours, there are myriad ways we can cruise into this new information super highway, and lift ourselves and the standards of our living. I cannot even begin to exhaustively cover what is possible due to the connections we now have, its is too broad a subject. I shall endeavour to narrow it down to what I think is relevant for the Kenya of today.

The knowledge economy driven by digital erasing of geographical and intellectual boundaries, is ours to take. We can leapfrog other economies by adapting ourselves to the new world that is now knocking. We can create new industries, new jobs, increase our industrial and agricultural capacity all using this new age technology. We can improve our academics in schools and universities, tapping into knowledge bases in far off countries. Our doctors can collaborate with colleagues across the globe and deliver better health care.

Our governemnt can take services online and enable its “customers” efficiently transact and consume services better. We can sell our farm produce in far off markets from the comfort of our farm houses. There is no limit to what we can do.

Specifically;

1. Applications Development – Software developers are having a field day. The new connectivity is bringing in lots of possibilities to create, test and deploy new software. Web applications, mobile applications, and freelancing are all happening at the speed of light. They have access to immense databases of source code, the DNA that software is made of. This access at high speeds means they can adapt the source code for our specific needs. This shortens the software development life cycle. They can collaborate with like-minded individuals across the globe and enhance their skills. The possibilities here are limitless. Is anyone taking advantage?

2. Outsourcing – There are tremendous opportunities in business process outsourcing, popularly known as BPO. This is where specialist companies are formed to take over the non-core, back office work of other corporations. This leaves the BPO’s customers to concentrate on their core businesses. The possibilities here are only limited to our innovation and industriousness. Other business opportunities lie in contact centres. Recently several of the mobile network operators have outsourced their customer care business to contact centres. This leaves them to manage their core business. Other opportunities lie in cloud computing, Software-as-a-Service, Platform-as-a-Service, Infrastructure-as-a-Service, data centres, and dedicated, ICT-centric free economic zones (FEZs) and software technology parks (STPs). The technology, know how, financing, skilled manpower are all available. We however, need proper enabling legislation to propel these new age business. Then entrepreneurs can step in and start their ventures.

3. Academics – An initiative based at Kenyatta University known as Africa Virtual University is laudable. Using high speed links, there has been academic collaboration across the continent. The bandwidth now available should enhance this venture further. Whole digital libraries are now available. The largest library on earth, the US Library of Congress has a mind-boggling digital collection, and can be accessed by any authorized person with a computer and high-speed internet connection. We can also digitise our volumes and have them accessed by other people. Academic video on demand, streaming video from content servers strewn across the globe, live video feed from lectures or class sessions across the globe are all distinct possibilities. The only limit, our speed of adapting to these possibilities. Other countries are not waiting.

4. Business and Trade – Trade and commerce enters a whole new dimension. New markets, research, bidding and competition are enabled in ways we have never seen before. E-commerce is on the rise. A distinct attraction is SMEs face low barriers to entry into the word of e-commerce. Business alliances are being formed electronically across the globe, and new markets open up daily.

5. Government – With e-government initiatives, efficient services, higher revenue collection, rapid results can be achieved at low cost. Kenya Revenue Authority’s initiatives in this area are a case in point. It is commendable that there is genuine work in this direction for various governemnt departments. Video conferencing can drastically reduce travel costs and achieve more efficient meetings. We need to study how other governments have done it.

6. Telecommuting – This woud have the most significant effect on socio-economic progress in our country. As rural-urban migration puts pressure on resources in cities the pressure is on. Telecommuting can cut down wastage in non-essential travel, better utilization of time and skills, multi-tasking, use of video-conferencing for meetings, collaborative webinars, conference calls… the list is endless. We need new labour laws, we need to re-think the whole work scene. People should be able to work from anywhere they can connect, so long as their work does not need physical presence at their work place.

I have just scratched the surface above, and the list can go on and on. We need new work ethic, innopvate new ideas, get the legislature to enact new laws to ensure smooth working of the new digital age economy.

In part III, we discuss the flip side. Risks, security, theft, moral decadence, criminal activities….Yes all these come hand in hand with the sweet revolution. Every sweet smelling rose comes with thorns, I think.

Let me have your feedback below.

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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.

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!

Wananchi wana Zuku

There is a new kid on the block, Wananchi’s Zuku. They are promising triple play (TV, broadband, phone). Read on.

I was happy the phone was answered on the first ring. Dial 020-329 2900 for the Sales team. Good start. Make sure you talk to Pauline, she always calls back.

Internet connection: They hook you up with a wireless connection (some drilling on your wall for the outdoor unit, cable to indoor unit then connection to your PC or switch in the house). For a damage of KES. 2,999 per mo’ you enjoy 256kbps, shared, repeat shared. The sales lady told me I should get 60-80% of the bandwidth I pay for, since its shared. I told her I would measure that and harass them later if I got less. Installation charges @ KES. 5,800. If you want to use a laptop to enjoy the service, a wireless modem will set you back KES. 7,500. That is for techophiles who want to roam their backyards or balcony while surfing. Important: They have to confirm if the signal is available in your area before you sign up. Nice touch.

For cable TV (delivered through fiber-optic cable), they offer various packages from 1,160 to 3,999 per month. You get a decoder with a smart card and you can veg your way to a couch potato. Installation, KES. 5,800. Again, they confirm that the cable is available in your area before you sign up.

If you sign up for both TV and internet, installation is only 5,800. The phone service will be available at a later date.

Call 020-329 2900 for details, email: sales@zuku.co.ke, or go here