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First Impressions Of Safaricom’s ‘theBigBox’ Internet & Digital TV Set-Top Box (STB)

The Safaricom theBigBox STB
The Safaricom theBigBox STB

Earlier today, Safaricom launched their much anticipated hybrid Internet and Digital TV Set-Top Box (STB) which has been named rather imaginatively as ‘theBigBox’. I had the opportunity to attend the launch this afternoon at the Sarit Centre in Westlands for a few minutes before heading off to other more pressing engagements. Below are my initial impressions from the same – before I do I fully fledged review in the coming weeks:

Pricing

The pricing for theBigBox is somewhat unexpected(?) as below:

Payment PlansPrice (Kes)The BigBox Internet BundleInstallments (Kes)
Easy Pay Plan4,999.006GB Free Monthly Bundle Free For 6 Months999.00 for 6 months
One-Off Payment9,999.006GB Free Monthly Bundle Free For 6 MonthsN/A

 

So. Basically. If you want to buy theBigBox in one go your looking at an investment(?) of Kes. 10,000.00 out of the box (pun intended). That brings a tear to my eye at first glance. However, that also includes 36GB of Internet data for a period of 6 months since this is hybrid STB and not just a ‘dumb’ STB. In addition, below is the pricing for additional or regular theBigBox data bundles as follows:

Price (Kes)BundleValidity
999.006GB30 Days
1,500.0010GB30 Days
2,000.0020GB30 Days
4,000.0050GB30 Days

 

Content

IMG_20150508_121942
theBigBox is loaded with all sorts of connectors and slots making it highly extensible and quite possibly future proof

In terms of content, theBigBox comes ‘out of the box’ with 35 free to air (FTA) digital TV channels. There is nothing really spectacular about this aspect pretty much ALL FTA STBs have the same content. In addition, PAY TV STBs have lots of better paid content so perhaps this is just a temporary status quo as Safaricom could be ramping up its content acquisition efforts?

However, theBigBox ‘shines’ in that YouTube streaming will be free of charge for the first 3 months given that this is a 3G and 4G capable STB. In addition, it will also enable you to play content from your flash disks and Micro SD cards since it has slots for both. To boot, theBigBox also has an RJ45 slot meaning that you can/could connect it to your home Internet network via ethernet. In a nutshell, what this means is that theBigBox is something of a Trojan Horse in that it can do a lot more than is possible at the minute with all its extensibility. Clearly, these will be activated in due course.

 

Functionality

IMG_20150508_122227
theBigBox aerial

theBigBox, apart from being a standard Digital TV STB is also able to function as a WiFi hotspot for up to 10 devices using its 4G capable Internet connectivity. This is really cool except that with a pay-as-you-go Internet service it will have its limitations compared to unlimited Internet via fibre to the home (FTTH) offerings like Zuku, JTL Faiba and others. However, theBigBox IS able to connect to ethernet so eventually Safaricom could offer FTTH and even Fibre to the business (FTTB) using theBigBox. For sure, this thing is a Trojan Horse of sorts!

Another aspect of theBigBox is that you can access Internet content on your TV so there is no need for other devices to connect if this is preferable(?). I am hoping that its able to host apps like Netflix or something similar going forward in pretty much the same way TV devices like Google’s Chromecast works. This in itself could change the landscape for digital TV in Kenya by offering a localised ‘video on-demand’ or VOD offering where one could pay for content using M-Pesa. The potential for theBigBox is enormous if Safaricom play their cards right!

Specifications

theBigBox comes with the following specifications which in some instances are impressive and in others typical:

ProcessorARM Cortex – A9 6000 DMIPS
RAMDDR3 1GB
Flash MemoryeMMC 4GB
HDMIHDMI 1.4a
USBUSB 2.0x 1
Video/AudioComposite Video & Audio L/R
Digital AudioOptical S/PDIF
SD CardMicro SD Memory Slot
RJ45Ethernet LAN Cable

 

Conclusion

Off the cuff, theBigBox seems like an impressive package even with its apparently high price(?). However, I will not really know how good it is until I get a chance to do a proper and comprehensive review on it over the next few weeks. If you want to find out more about theBigBox and where it is available you can do so at theBigBox website here.

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11 Comments

  1. May 8, 2015 at 7:34 pm — Reply

    Firmware?

  2. Ben Kairu
    May 8, 2015 at 7:42 pm — Reply

    Really waiting for that review, Mo. This is good on paper but ultimately a decision will be made based on the actual usability. There are too many boxes in our homes and i hope this is not a “me too” product. However the bundle pricing is somewhat attractive for “heavy” internet users and this is welcome.

  3. May 8, 2015 at 8:56 pm — Reply

    Thats good news. They should also do neflix, Hulu and Vimeo. Ultimately “bundles” will cease making sense if Video on Demand is made possible on the platform.

  4. ndanu
    May 9, 2015 at 9:35 am — Reply

    Good in depth review, though my main concern is with the internet speeds outside the 4G coverage areas.

  5. May 10, 2015 at 1:49 am — Reply

    So this was what the ‘hype’ was all about?i wish they would be abit generous with bundles.if they want people tog stream through the box then they have to provide sufficient bundles.you donot want a scenario where you have “Your Internet Bundle balance is below 2.00 MB” on your giant flat led screen.this product is a total fail!i donot see how they are going to accelerate internet penetration into homes with such kind of strategy.you cannot have video on demand with bundles, lol

  6. Abraham Indieka
    May 17, 2015 at 5:45 pm — Reply

    I will be interested to know how fast the 3G internet via the big box is in the rural areas.

  7. June 29, 2015 at 1:03 pm — Reply

    When are you doing an actual review?

  8. Samuel N
    October 25, 2015 at 9:16 am — Reply

    Hi Moses,

    Does it support umts900? Is it possible to get the modem being used for 3g and 4g LTE? In my area umts900 provides very good coverage unlike umts2100.

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