So, its just over a month since the SEACOM high speed cable went live, connecting Eastern and Southern African countries to broadband Internet for the very first time. In East Africa, SEACOM is gradually connecting hinterland countries like Rwanda and Uganda through regional and national fibre backbones. However, Kenya has been more or less running on SEACOM for the better part of the last two weeks as much faster internet access speeds are being experienced by consumers and businesses alike.
However, one of the most contentious issues at the moment since SEACOM went live is that the end-user has not experienced any price reductions yet, as had been hoped for, or expected. What has happened so far instead is that the Internet Service Provider (ISP) community has doubled or even quadrupled bandwidth on the last mile to the end-user with no price reductions. This is somewhat perplexing for the end-users since it is also known that the ISP community now buying wholesale SEACOM bandwidth for up to 90% less than they used to pay for similar bandwidth via on Satellite connections.
Therefore, in defense of the Internet pricing status quo, the ISP community has been pressing several arguments for the lack of price reductions to the end-user. One is that they are recouping the high cost of connecting to and maintaining links to SEACOM on service agreements. The ISP community also argue that they (still) have costly satellite connections in place due to service agreements that they must run down over time, even as they connect to the SEACOM cable. Lastly, they have also raised the argument that SEACOM has (apprently) gone offline on several occasions in the last few weeks and as such they intend to maintain redundant sattellite connectivity, just in case any other outages happen in the future. I believe this final argument will indeed become redundant when both the EASSY and TEAMS cables go live in Kenya within the next year or so – Kenya will then have 3 high speed cables when they go live and it would be cheaper and more practical then for the ISP community to drop satellite connectivity altogether.
In a nutshell, the SEACOM cable is delivering Internet access speeds that many end-users have never experienced before in Kenya. Personally, I use various ISPs when I am at home, at work, or on the move. In all of these cases its interesting to see that for the first time I can watch streaming video or listen to podcasts without buffering or distortions. There is one ISP I use for instance where I was able to download a large 100MB file in less than 5 minutes. Yes, you read right. 5 minutes! Imagine that! But, I think this is just the beginning. I can’t wait for the other high speed cables to go live and competitive pressure starts to bring the prices down. This is what we all want the most. Fast, reliable, and most importantly inexpensive broadband Internet.