SA left out as Kenya gets fibre to the home - TechCentral

SA left out as Kenya gets fibre to the home

Wananchi's Zuku website

Kenya and Tanzania are to get high-speed fibre-to-the-home connections offering a triple-play bundle of broadband, telephony and cable television thanks to a US$200m investment from the private sector.

The company behind the project, Wananchi — which is backed by Cisco Capital and East Africa Capital Partners — says it would love to do the same in SA, but the regulatory environment here precludes it from doing so.

The company enjoys the backing of Kenya Data Networks founder Richard Bell and Mark Schneider, the founder of US-based Liberty Global, an $8,7bn-revenue triple-play service provider.

Wananchi is extending a backhaul and last-mile fibre network across Nairobi and Mombasa in Kenya and Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. It’s also building a WiMax wireless network in to provide uncapped Internet access in the cities and smaller urban centres in Kenya.

The cost of the services, marketed under the Zuku brand, start at about R137/month for an uncapped, 256kbit/s Internet service. The top-end package costs about R500/month and offers an uncapped 1Mbit/s service and more than 100 English-language television channels.

Wananchi is also partnering with a local television production house to develop programming specific to the Kenyan market.

Scheinder, who chairs Wananchi’s board, says the company expect to have an annual operating income of between $150m and $200m within the next five to six years.

He says the company is supplementing its WiMax and fibre offerings with Vsat (satellite) services for small and medium businesses, especially those in remote locations in East Africa. But the plan, eventually, is to take fibre to even the small towns in the region.

Wananchi’s investment comes on the back of three new submarine cable systems that have been deployed in the region in the past year.

Wananchi and Cisco executives say the cost of international bandwidth in the region — thanks to Eassy, Seacom and Teams — is now as cheap as it is anywhere in the world. This is driving big investment in telecommunications infrastructure and services.

“It’s Africa’s turn to get this type of technology,” says Schneider. “The wireless business has become a powerful driver but there are lots of things it can’t do that we want to bring to Africa [like]video entertainment, [which]needs very high-speed broadband connectivity.”

He says Wananchi plans to offer residential consumers in Kenya access speeds of up to 150Mbit/s over time. Businesses will be offered even higher-speed connections. “We will reach hundreds of thousands of homes in Kenya with fibre.”

The company says it is keen to develop a network in SA, too, but East Africa Capital Partners’ Bell says the problem is “SA is still a very closed and regulated market”.

“East Africa has leapfrogged ahead of SA,” Bell says. “If we could get a licence to build a cable network in SA, we’d be there in a second.”  — Duncan McLeod, TechCentral


  1. why do I get the sudden feeling of wanting to bang my head on a desk repeatedly

    we have short sited people in charge with no clue what this country could be if they stuck there fingers out of there bums.

  2. The_Librarian on

    Many thanks to our dear old comrades in the ANC for foisting this situation upon us.

  3. Thembinkosi on

    As long as Telkom has’t resolved her politics, SA’s future on broadband is bleek, unless the government strips Telkom off some of her rights to allow other players.

  4. The Telkom/ANC/ICASA tripartite regime is completely marring South African network development…and this is something we need for SALT/SKA to work! Wake up guys…SKA will bring a lot of capital, innovation and scientific honour to our country…we need this politics/regulation bullshit sorted out ASAP!

  5. Color me naive, but what exactly about the SA environment “precludes” this kind of investment? And has anyone told, e.g. GTS about it, because they are extending at least some last-mile fiber in new build there to my knowledge.
    Possible to get a license- check.
    Can operate a network or negotiate for resale-check
    Access to international bandwidth-check

    Even Altech says they will go East Africa before SA, but no one has really laid out why. I don’t think the regulator gets full blame for this one- it’s a lack of confidence from business to some extent. Justified based on history? Yes. But the barriers are not still there, someone could bull their way in here with some pluck.

  6. the beauty of laying fibre infrastructure is that you can put as little or as much internet backhaul down it. you can keep costs down by keeping traffic local, ie gov/schools/hospitals to users.
    If its fibre then that traffic will be at the speed of iight, and as most traffic is local the network is sustainable. Don’t worry that internet transit is ‘only’ a meg, it is scalable when people need more. The only restrictions are if copper is involved. If its fibre to the home its futureproof.

  7. Just to remind some people:

    Tanzania and Kenya chose DVB-T standard for digital tv, and it works really well!!!!

    What a mess is South Africa´s DOC doing with Brazilian lobby….sad story!

  8. shocking. shocking.
    @trekelny. at this level of investment there is no such thing as lack of confidence. they can either see their investment returning in a couple of years or they don’t.
    in case of SA the regulation prevents them to extend and market the way they can see their investment return guaranteed. here they cannot as half of their services need to run through Telkom so they cannot offer competitive prices because the Telkom Tax applies….
    so yes there are barriers.

  9. Kenya and Tanzania have long been more open to the world and it is a matter of time that they get this investment. The speed is related to timing and technological progress. But SA is a prime target for external companies and should be ahead of the curve. Telkom is a disgrace, someone is eating the money, they should be world class except they are floundering behind 2 East African countries. Consider what Telkom was 20 years ago versus Kenya/Tanzania telecoms, at that time Tz could barely feed itself…

  10. What Zuku is doing is comendable and way todo for Africa. Hi speed internet, Phone and TV via one fibre is the real thing. I can imagine working from home (office) with peeds 0f 100MB at my comfort. Congrats ZUKU

  11. freedomfighter on

    Thanks to nationalist government institutions such as Telkom and the ANC. The ANC is so bad for the South African black community, its holding them back.

  12. As a Kenyan, I’d like to point out that the local ICT sector has leapfrogged substantially in the past 5 years after key government regulations implemented, one of them being privatisation of the previously moribund Telkom Kenya. This has allowed new Telecommunications entrants into the market, fostering competition and rapid growth of the sector.

    Without the SA government releasing it’s hold of Telkom, there is little hope in such growth as has been seen here being replicated in SA.

  13. The Trutherizer on

    I’m sorry.The money laundering telekoms monopolizing joke of a company Telkom will hold on to what they have for as long as they can. I mean they just invested big $$$ in that nigerian company and then had to write it off, and now the CEO of that failed company is the acting CEO of Telkom. That to me sounds like a golden handshake. Reminds me of the time $bils were invested in Nigeria in that practically nonexistent energy company. Woohoo! baby’s buying a new shoe store tonight! Despicable thieves the lot of them.

  14. People its not Telkom at fault here, eveyone blames Telkom. Telkoms biggest obstacle is gove and intereferance in running a prper profitable business

    It is government and their policy, they are trying to protect the market and fear that by making it truly open market, their beloved Telkom will fall flat on its face from major competition……………instead of fully privatizing Telkom and open the market to more and smaller competitors

  15. I´m from South Africa and I would like to congratulate Kenya for lounching digital tv before South Africa. Kenya chose DVB-T, just like Australia, Europe and many other countries and denied the corrupt brazilian lobby to change course in the middle of the process by imposing their expensive standard! We are proud of you! Keep up that spirit!!!

  16. The truth is, the government is owned by Telkom, not the other way around. It’s always “Touch Tomorrow”, instead of ‘Touch Today’ 😛

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