subscribers in sections of Nairobi will from next week access the Internet at much faster speeds of 42 Mbps after a system upgrade. Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore said initial roll-out will involve subscribers in the firm’s Data Belt within the Central Business District (CBD), Kileleshwa, Kilimani and Westlands. The Data Belt forms an area which has high Internet usage. The 42 Mbps trials started after the launch of 21 Mbps last year.
Mr. Collymore was speaking on the sidelines of a three days Connected Kenya Summit being held at the Leisure Lodge. The conference, with the theme “Knowledge and Beyond” was opened by Assistant Minister for Information and Technology Mr. Simon Ogari. “At Safaricom, our aim is to ‘democratize’ the internet and bring it to as many Kenyans as possible. With the launch of this upgrade that allows for faster speeds, we are demonstrating true leadership in this quest,” said Mr. Collymore.
He said the move was a direct response to consumer concerns and promised that the firm would continue listening and acting upon user feedback. Mr. Collymore said modems to support the speeds will be available soon after making the official announcement later. When Safaricom last upgraded its speeds from 7.2 Mbps to 21 Mbps, the consumer data offering also included a Huawei E1820 modem to support the speeds.
Safaricom was the first Kenyan operator to commercially launch a 3G network in October 2007, ensuring that its subscribers accessed high speed mobile data. The technology was initially available in and around Nairobi but was later rolled throughout the country within a year. Mr. Collymore said the country needed to tap into the huge youthful population – one of Kenya’s richest resources – providing them with information. Kenya’s youth unemployment rate is estimated at more than 60 per cent. Although 14 million out of a population of 40 million Kenyans have Internet access, this figure represented only 34 per cent of the population. “It is critical that this number increases,” said Mr. Collymore.
Although it has barely been scratched, the mobile internet market is becoming important for the mobile telephony firms said Mr. Collymore. Subscribers accessing internet through the mobile phones stood at 5.3 million during the period under review, out of which Safaricom controlled 4.3 million users or 88 per cent of the market share. Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) data shows that 14.3 million Kenyans had internet access in the period to September, up from 8.6 million in September 2010 pushing internet penetration to 36.3 per cent from 22.1 per cent. “14 million of the 40 million Kenyans having Internet access is indeed testament to the fact that we are embracing the information age. Yet this is only 34 per cent of the population. It is critical that this number increases,” said Mr. Collymore.