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Wednesday, December 31, 2014


From (l to r) Information CS Matiang'i, CAK's Mutua Muthusi, and CAL lawyer Wambua Kilonzo

Analogue TV signals in Nairobi and its environs will be switched off tonight at 11:59PM or after the Presidential New Year address industry regulator Communications Authority has vowed.

This is despite a court application by the three media houses of Royal Media (Citizen), NMG (NTV) and Standard Group (KTN) to allow them to keep broadcasting in analogue until they have their infrastructure in place.

But tough talking Ministry of Information and CAK officials said in a press conference that the switch off timetable as issued in a gazette notice by Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i, remains in place.

Despite obtaining orders from the Supreme Court Vice President Kalpana Rawal certifying their application as urgent and maintaining status quo until the hearing set for January 5, Lawyer Wambua Kilonzo acting for CAK and Mr. Mwangi from the Attorney General's office, said their interpretation of the court orders was that the digital migration process was not stopped.

"I have advised CAK not to cancel the licenses of the media owners but this does not stop the digital migration process from going on," Kilonzo said.

Kilonzo in a position supported by the AG's counsel, said the Supreme Court did not grant orders to prayer number 2 of the media houses for the digital migration process to be stopped in the meantime.

According to CAK Consumer and Public Affairs director Mutua Muthusi, the channels set for switch off tonight include:

Citizen (Channels 34, 39)
KTN 59
KBC 23
K24 26
GBS 47
NTV 42
QTV 12
Family 9
ETV 62
KIss TV (Channel 55)

Muthusi said Kenyans are ready to migrate and cited sales figures of set top boxes which have ballooned in the last month.

Members of the independent STB vendors association listen in during the press conference.
"STB sales have more than doubled in the month of December," he said adding that this trend was taking place even outside Nairobi.


Customers mill around the GOTV tent near National Archives.

A final notice has been issued by the Communications Authority of Kenya for Nairobi residents regarding digital migration signalling that the switch over will not be delayed again.

Digital KE - Digital migration. Analogue switch off for Nairobi and its environs is on December 31st 2014. From Communication Authority of Kenya.

That is the message sent by the industry regulator.

CAK Director General Francis Wangusi was not immediately reachable for comment as his phone was switched off.

But a press conference held earlier today at the Information Ministry offices reiterated that the switch off of analogue signals would go on as planned tonight at 11:59 PM.

A spot check at sales points in the Nairobi CBD found vendors busy selling boxes to customers.

We took a couple of shots of the action between Moi and Tom Mboya Street around National Archives and Standard Chartered area.

The Star Times tent near Stanchart


Takes place tonight. Will affect Nairobi and its environs.


Will take place on 2nd Feb. Will cover - Mombasa, Malindi, Nyeri, Meru, Kisumu, Webuye, Kakamega, Kisii, Nakuru, Eldoret, Nyahururu, Machakos, Narok and Londiani.


Set for March 30th.

Garissa, Kitui, Lodwar, Lokichoggio, Kapenguria, Kabarnet, Migori, Voi, Mbwinzau/Kibwezi, Namanga and all other remaining sites.

Saturday, December 27, 2014


GOTV has lowered the cost of its decoders to Sh99 by including two months free subscription with its boxes and launched a Free to Air lifetime option for consumers in its latest push for market leadership.

The move underscores the high stakes battle for the digital TV market with 3 days to go before switch off of analogue TV signals in Nairobi.

The company is locked in grim battle for control of the over 1million TV sets market in Nairobi with rival Startimes and other independent set top box vendors.
At an average cost of Sh500 per subscription, the Nairobi market alone could be worth Sh500 million monthly or US$5.52m.

With a payment of Sh1700 or equivalent to two months subscription to GOTV plus one gets the GOTV set top box with the option to begin paying monthly subscriptions after two months.

"We are offering affordable family entertainment, a new mass market product (free to air boxes) and clear digital quality and sound," a GOTV spokesperson said.

"This is a 2-in-1 option. There is the free to air option and there is the pay TV option."

The free to air option will see the consumer pay a Sh2600 administration fee at the end of two months to convert it to an FTA box. The admin fee will enable such a customer to continue using GOTV after sales service if for example they wish to come back.

Also, when the set top boxes are upgraded, the FTA decoders will also be automatically upgraded.

In the FTA field the company will compete with 61 authorized vendors of STBs who are operating under the independent set top box distributors association of Kenya banner.

The pay TV provider who runs on the SIGNET signal distribution platform says monthly fees for normal GOTV will be Sh499 while for GOTV plus will be Sh799.

Content has been targeted with offering for kids such as Disneyland to movies and documentary channels for adults.

*A review of the content offering will be forthcoming on this blog.

After pricing, content could be the next battlefront particularly as government moves to institute the local content rule requiring a certain amount of programming be devoted to local content.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014


They say imitation is the best form of flattery but GOTV marketers and activators are not feeling too flattered by their rival Startimes, more like irritated.

In the CBD and its environs, you may have seen GOTV selling point tents standing side by side with those of Startimes on nearly every street you turn into.

This is not as a result of the city fathers planning ahead and allocating space for this, it is, according to Multichoice insiders, as a result of copy cat tactics from the Chinese outfit.

"These guys are waiting for us to go through the whole process, secure approvals and pay for the permits, then they go to City Hall and ask them, what did GOTV do to get that spot?"

Multichoice's long understanding of the local market and its level of investment may have played a role but the sheer scale of the marketing operation it unleashed with the deadline for digital migration in the next 10 days appear to have shaken the market with rivals now seeming to be reacting rather than playing to their own script.

Besides sales points, rivals are also being accused of copying GOTV ads on TV and print.

Multichoice however is riding on several advantages.

Besides the fact that it has the longest history in the country amongst current players in the pay TV market, it is a keen follower of evolutions in regulations.

Long before GOTV was launched, the company had converged IT journalists from across the continent to its Jo'Burg headquarters to take them through the meaning of digital terrestrial transmission, South Africa's experience with digital migration and likely plans for DTT on the African continent.

It has also invested in local content with Africa Magic and other content  development shows, sports and so on that it can offer on its platform exclusively.

So the home stretch in this whole process was not a starting point for the company but part of its action plan.

It will be interesting to watch how rivals react over the Christmas period.


After issuing Safaricom a Long Term Evolution (LTE) license to roll out 4G services, Kenya's industry regulator Communication Communication of Kenya has ruled out issuing new LTE licenses until after June 2015.

With digital migration and freeing up of analogue TV frequencies, it is expected that these will be available for LTE.

But CAK Director General Francis Wangusi, now says until after the World Radiocommunication Conference which will determine the optimal allocation of these frequencies no new licenses will be issued.

The WRC to be held in November 2015.

According to Wangusi, the meeting will determine whether to issue 2x45 MHz or 2x20Mhz licenses.

If it issues 2x45MHz, it will only be able to license two players, in addition to the Safaricom license, Wangusi said.

For 2x20Mhz, CAK will be able to issue licenses to about 6 players.

However, devices on the 2x45Mhz end up being cheaper than on the alternative.

Safaricom has said it expects to see a sub-$100 LTE smartphone in the Kenyan market by February 2015.


Radio Africa Group, associated with CEO Patrick Quarcoo has made a bold entry into the digital terrestrial TV field with a free to view box selling for Sh3,300 but no monthly subscription fees.

Bamba TV set top box will carry 50 channels half of them international and the rest local free to air channels like local broadcasters.

A review of the content for this product will be forthcoming soon.

Bamba TV will replace the company's KISS TV and also offer more channels under its digital and bamba division.

With 50 free to view channels, Bamba will seek to make money off advertisements on the different channels.

Danny Mucira is the GM for the data and bamba division. He previously worked as the GM Multichoice Kenya and has previously worked with Old Mutual and Shell Kenya.

The digital division is ran by Lancia Digital a DTT company owned by Radio Africa Group.

Times Media of SA earlier in the year bought a 49 per cent stake in RAG for $18m and promised to help in the roll out of the DTT offering.

Valued at Sh3billion plus, this is RAG's latest bet as the country migrates from analogue to digital TV transmission.

Times Media, Patrick Quarcoo and William Pike are the main shareholders of RAG. Smaller shareholders sold off significant part of their shareholding in the transaction with the SA group.

These included Sirwo enterprises of William Chesire and Kiprono Kittony, Sudhil Vidyardhi, Longhorn Enterprises, Xynergy, Kitambo Limited etc.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Digital Migration Must Not Be Delayed Any Longer

The real analogue-to-digital switch over is set to take place in Nairobi at the end of this month. Broadcast transmission will shift to digital signals.
It is a transition that is expected to have a significant impact on the way we receive information, as anyone in Nairobi without a digital set-top box will not access television channels.
This process is coming more than a year later after court cases kept delaying the move from the initial date of June 2013. Digital migration must not be delayed further.
Some litigants, notably the owners of some of the big TV stations in the country, have threatened to go to court again, or to pull their signals off air, rather than transmit them on the two digital distribution platforms licensed earlier: state-owned Signet [through the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation] and Pan African Network Group, a Chinese firm. The TV owners have been granted a licence to distribute signals as well.
It is easy to see why they have kept delaying this process.
For starters, they have enjoyed an almost cartel-like environment for broadcasting and have had the muscle to roll out coverage across the country. For this, they have been charging high advertising rates, while stating audience numbers that few advertisers can ascertain.
It has also helped that analogue TV frequencies have been limited, so the threat of competition has been minimal.
With digital migration this landscape shifts dramatically. To begin with, the migration separates signal distributors from content providers.
Secondly, each analogue frequency yields about 18 digital frequencies, dramatically opening the field and lowering the entry bar for competition.
Third, digital platforms mean advertisers can better track the actual number of viewers on each channel, hence make more reliable investments in media buying.
That this process has taken this long to implement is testament to the business-unfriendly environment brought about by litigant-friendly courts in the country. While it is understandable that broadcast TV station owners needed a bit of time to assess the changing business environment, it is criminal to hold development hostage for that long in their interests.
The country has lost a lot by delaying the migration process, particularly in terms of new investments, denying young creative minds outlets for their content, and digital dividends that we expect to result from frequencies that are freed up after the switch-off.
These are frequencies that can be used to increase mobile technology and penetration to remote areas, boost internet access and so on.
Further, there are investors who actually sunk in money with business projections pegged on the original deadlines set by the regulator, but have now had to revise these because of endless delays in the process.
Multichoice Kenya and StarTimes Media not only spent money acquiring expensive content, but also in importing affordable digital set-top boxes and millions of shillings more in marketing and activating these products.
Multichoice has, for example, invested heavily in Africa Magic channels, developing content tailored to the local market and making use of local talent. However, until migration is effected, the larger pool of audience it had in mind will not materialise.
Lastly, with new technology, you never know what innovations will come up and, maybe, we have denied a lot of talent take off.
Shows like Churchill Live give a platform to new and upcoming comedians. Who knows, with more channels available, the show could be the basis of our own Comedy Channel featuring all these artists in full version instead of cramming them in a 45-minute slot.
Another reason that the migration should not be delayed further is that TV owners took part in the original bidding for a signal distribution licence. According to the Communications Authority officials, the bid they put in was shoddy and they lost.
Should projects be delayed because a losing bidder demands that they must be part of it even when they show lack of technical capacity?
They have now been granted a licence. However, how long will it be before they roll out services? First, they need to bring in the technical expertise. Then, they need billions of shillings to roll out national infrastructure like Multichoice and Startimes have done.
They will also need to buy competitive content to get people on their platforms. How long will this take and should we wait for them to get their network running before Kenyans can be allowed to migrate?
What TV stations should concentrate on is getting the right content. Investing in this, rather than seeking to control infrastructure, is inherently more central to their core business and will likely bear them higher profits.
TV stations in the US such as CBS, Fox, ABC and NBC make their bread and butter from commissioning cutting edge TV shows which Kenyans buy off the streets as ‘movie series’ or in broadcasting rights for popular sports like NFL, NBA and so on. Others like
Showtime and HBO are pay-channels, which carry exclusive material and have no adverts.
Whichever model our TV stations choose, they should do so as we migrate on December 31, not delay the switch-off.
- See more at:

[This article first ran in The Star.]


Fred Matiang'i, the Cabinet Secretary for ICT, sat on the government table during the launch of the consumer education campaign for TV digital migration being carried out by the Communications Authority of Kenya.

But he might as well have been sitting on the "stakeholders" table where media owners' interests sat.

Giving the keynote speech while observing the challenges that have faced the migration process which was meant to take place exactly one year ago, the CS attacked the regulator for being insensitive to the needs of stakeholders.

He said everyone's interests must be looked at in future when making policy to avoid confrontations and emphasized that we must support the local broadcasting industry.

From Rose Kimotho to Faridah Karoney and all the other media interests in the room, this must have sounded like music.

After all, aren't these the same media interests that held up the process of migration by rushing to court last year when Justice David Majanja ruled to halt the process?

The CS is right that the interests of stakeholders should be looked into but exactly which stakeholders?

Sitting on their own, was a group of men led by a bespectacled elderly fellow who it turned out are the "jua kali" sector....the independent set top box vendors. These guys import their own set top boxes which are free to air.

They have been burnt seriously with all the back and forth of court cases, reversal of decisions by government when they had already sunk money into production of boxes only for the government to say it had decided to use a different format and so on.

Between them, one fellow confided, they had spent about Sh200million and a lot of it was unrecoverable.

But despite their pleas to be given some consideration after such losses the CS offered little beyond saying those selling uncertified boxes would be arrested.

The other investors are the content providers such as Multichoice and Startimes. They also have spent millions preparing for launch, acquiring content and so on and had factored in a whole year of recruiting subscribers but were caught up in the delays occasioned by the case.

The CS did not mention them,

In the meantime, the media owners did not lose a cent in revenues as the case dragged on, but continued to mint their advertising dollars on analogue signals.

To aggravate matters further, while holding the rest of the country hostage, they have been accused of refusing to carry consumer education information on the digital migration, an issue that should have been raised during the court case to demonstrate their lack of good faith.

So it was quite surprising to hear the CS talk literally like the media owners are the ones who had been wronged when they have cost so many investors a lot of money.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


 Kengen, the power generator, is on a roll and in a fix at the same time. This coming Friday, it has invited President Uhuru Kenyatta to commission the 140Mw power station it has done at Ol Karia IV. MD Albert Mugo says that as a result of the injection of the geothermal power into the national grid, the fuel cost charge on consumer electricity bills has fallen from Sh7.22 per Kilowatt Hour (Kwh) in July/August to 5.39/Kwh in September and 4.79/Kwh in October. With another 140Mw in Ol Karia I phase II coming online, this charge is expected to go down to about Sh3/Kwh. That will certainly be a relief.

Better yet, the wells drilled by Kengen in Ol Karia that were expected to yield 5 Megawatts equivalent ended up doing double that, around 13Mwe. One world record breaking well is doing 30Mwe.

What this means is that to generate the 280Mw this total project was meant to do, Kengen ended up doing fewer wells than initially projected. Keep in mind, some of these wells cost US$6million (Sh534million) to drill.

So instead of the US$1.2billion (Sh106billion) it would have spent, it ended up doing about $960 (Sh85.5billion) including drilling.

The decision has been made to use the savings and the generous steam, to do an additional 70Mw plant to bring the total to 350Mw (by far Africa's largest geothermal power plant).

Financiers are happy. Take JICA (Japanese International cooperation Agency). They funded Ol Karia I Phase II. The project has gone so well, they have come to Kengen wanting to fund Ol Karia V. Those talks are ongoing.

But therein also lies Kengen's dilemma. The company is highly leveraged.

Its current funding structure is approaching 70% debt and 30% shareholders contribution (equity).

It cannot accept JICA's money, as soft as the terms are, without increasing its shareholder's equity.

This is why Kengen is doing a rights issue. As the company is 30% owned by the government, it is waiting to get word back from Treasury as to whether they will take up their rights. It is expected they will. Since the rights issue is for Sh15billion, government will be expected to come up with Sh10.5billion and shareholders Sh4.5bn.

Institutional investors should be easy to bring on board.

Kengen's geothermal power plants have an Internal Rate of Return of about 12.5%, according to Mugo, the MD. This means they will repay the investment in 8 years or thereabouts.

Which is why it will develop Ol Karia 6 and 7 using a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model.

Already two firms have approached it expressing interest.

The RFPs (Request for Proposals) for a transaction advisor will be opened tomorrow (Wednesday 15, October 2014).

The company will seek a partner with whom to set up a joint-venture using a Special Purpose Vehicle. The partner should be able to source for equity as well as the debt required to finance the project.

One key takeaway is the amount of experience Kengen has gained from handling such a project with so many different players and contracts to implement.

The power plants have been built by Hyundai Heavy Industries, the South Korean conglomerate.

The Turbines were supplied by Toshiba of Japan.

The substation and transmission lines were done by KEC International of India.

Sinopec of China did the steamfield development.

Development of the steamfield was financed by World Bank and KfW of Germany.

The consultant for the design of the project and supervision of implementation was SKM of New Zealand.

Financing of actual construction was by KfW.

Financing of the power plant was by European Investment Bank (EIB)and French Agency for Development (AfD) - not to be confused with its more commercial arm, Proparco which finances projects on more commercial terms.

The substation and transmission line were financed by EIB.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014


Pay-TV Zuku is emerging as the darling of Private Equity companies who have pumped in Sh11.6billion (US$130million) for its expansion across the continent.
Holding group Wananchi which owns Zuku said it raised the money from leading international cable companies, Altice and Liberty Global as well as PE firms ECP (Emerging Capital Partners) and Helios.
Zuku is targeting high-density population areas with its fast growing triple play service with emerging urban centres like Kitengela in its sights.
It also seeks to expand in the region including Ethiopia and in West Africa.
The firm has become a major player in the fixed line business providing telephony and internet services as well as pay TV.
Communications Authority (CA) places Zuku first in fixed internet at 44.7%. Liquid Telecom (formely KDN) 17.8%, Telkom Kenya (11.6%), AccessKenya (11.5%) and Safaricom 7.1% follow.
The triple play service has proved popular where it is available although this is restricted to certain areas as the company seeks to expand coverage.
The convenience of getting cable TV but also internet service has seen the company grow to 200,000 subscribers by its own statement, in the region.
The company's TV bouquets carry all the local channels, documentary channels like NatGeo Gold, Discovery Science and Europe based Viasta Explore and Viasat Crime. It also has 5 sports channels including Zuku live sports, Zuku sports, two Fox sports channels (for those who watch the NFL) and a Eurosport channel.
A ruling earlier this year is supposed to see rival Dstv that holds exclusive rights to English Premier League ganes share these lucrative rights with the likes of Zuku and Star Times.
The new round of fundraising is an endorsement about the upside potential of the business given the shareholders are all experienced players in the TMT (Technology, Media and Telecommunications) space or in the African private equity space.
Liberty Global for example is the largest international cable company in the world. Altice SA is a multinational cable company present in France, Belgium, Israel, Luxembourg, Portugal, Switzerland and the French West Indies.
Helios Capital, an African focused PE fund has made some shrewd investments in Kenya most notably in Equity Bank where it holds 24.45% of the bank valued at Sh50billion. It's initial investment was Sh11billion in 2007.
It is injecting $40million (Sh3.6bn) into Wananchi Group as part of the Sh11.6bn the company has raised to fund the expansion of its cable footprint.

Thursday, October 2, 2014


The left most row of pylons with power cables, is called the Nairobi North line. It carries power from Ol Karia geothermal fields up the escarpment through Ndenderu to Nairobi.

The centre row of pylons, is new. It is also supposed to bring power from new steam plants in Ol Karia IV and Ol Karia 1 phase II, a total of about 350Megawatts of power.

The row of pylons on the right, is the Loiyangalani line. It is supposed to bring power from the Lake Turkana Wind Power project, 430kilometres and deposit it at Suswa for onward redistribution.

The road shown is the Maai-Mahiu to Narok highway, the exact spot is at Suswa where the lines cross the road and onward to a massive substation coming up at Suswa.

Joining them will be another set of high-voltage carrying pylons this time coming from 1100Km away in Ethiopia where Kenya is purchasing 400Mw of power for itself and also wheeling in, 400Mw each for Tanzania and Rwanda.

From here they will drop at the Suswa substation currently under construction.

This will be one of the most crucial infrastructure installations in the country.

Shown here is just the 220Kv substation for receiving the current power that is coming from Ol Karia, as well as Loiyangalani.

Next to it, will be built a much bigger HVDC (high-voltage Direct Current) converter substation to bring in as much as 2000Mw from Ethiopia.

All this is just a small representation of Ketraco's (Kenya Electricity Transmission Company) ambitions to build an aerial empire.

It starts from modest beginnings.

The Nairobi North line shown above for instance is currently one of the most if not the most important power line in the country.

It goes down, we get almost national blackouts.

This represents the serious lack of investment in transmission lines in the country over the last 30 years.

Before the current network of pylons Ketraco is putting up, the Nairobi North line and the Turkwell line were the only transmission projects the country had invest in during that time.

The company has already doubled the length of transmission lines in the country and plans to have 10,000Km of lines by 2020.

Check the list below if the lines go through your village.

The Nairobi North line became crucial because it provided an alternative source of power from Ol Karia to the Seven Forks.

But all those power stations produce about 60Mw each from Masinga, to Kaburu, Kindaruma, Kambere and Gitaru.

For the reason that these stations are in Eastern Kenya, the Dandora substation in Nairobi where they bring their power has been the most important in the country.

Suswa is going to rival that.

The plants coming up at Ol Karia are at least 70Mw each and with Kengen putting up 5 of them, we are looking at 350Mw from the phase one project alone.

Phase II is meant to do 560Mw.

Geothermal Development Company meantime is doing about 400Mw and 800Mw at Menengai in phases I and II.

From the Suswa substation, power will be transmitted eastwards to Nairobi through the Nairobi North line but also through the Suswa-Isinya line.

At Isinya, another substation to receive this power and also from the high-voltage line from Mombasa is being put up.

Power from here will be sent eastwards to Athi River and Embakasi substation for distribution.

It will also head south to Tanzania where it will link up with the ZTK project (Zambia-Tanzania-Kenya) transmission project.

On the long neglected eastern side of Kenya, Lamu to Kitui is likely to see some of the biggest transmission works in the future.

The 900Mw coal power project at Lamu awarded to the Centum/Gulf Energy consortium will be linked through Kitui and into Nairobi East with another line extending to Wajir and beyond.

This project should be done in the next two years if the Centum/Gulf group under their AMU group deal with the petition by losing bidder HGIC.

At the same time, these substations at Suswa, Isinya, Embakasi, Dandora and so on form a ring around Nairobi that is supposed to stabilize the power supply in the commercial capital of Kenya.

Nairobitech will update as each of these projects come online.

Some notable projects completed or in progress include.

  1. Sondu - Kisumu line 50Km COMPLETE
  2. Rabai - Galu line 48Km COMPLETE
  3. Chemosit - Kisii line 62Km COMPLETE
  4. Kamburu - Meru lin 122Km COMPLETE
  5. Sangoro - Sondu line 5Km COMPLETE
  6. Mumias - Rangala line 34Km COMPLETE
  7. Mombasa - Nairobi line 482Km ONGOING
  8. Rabai - Malindi - Garsen - Lamu ONGOING
  9. ............................

Monday, September 29, 2014


Safaricom has lost its contract to provide mobile phone services to the US Mission in Kenya to rival Airtel.

US Embassy staff who use Safaricom lines have now been ported to Airtel but have retained their Safaricom numbers.

The Embassy pays about Sh40million a month in phone bills for its staff to Safaricom.

It is thought that Airtel might have given a cheaper offer.

Safaricom representatives on the account remarked that the Mission would be back to using Safaricom services in no time.

This is the single biggest case of porting phone numbers since number portability begun in the country in April 2011. All those who had Safaricom lines retain the same exact number but the service is now Airtel.

Airtel has been seen as particularly friendly in price when it comes to making international calls. Calls to the US for instance attract near local rates.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014


Safaricom will roll out 4G/LTE services on its network by June 2015.

It will be the first company to roll out the service after it managed to purchase some 800Mhz frequency to go the journey alone.

Government had insisted on a consortium approach such as that used on the TEAMS undersea cable but Safaricom has been raring to go it alone.

The concession to buy the frequencies at about US$75million came about after Safaricom offered to build a security network for the police without receiving payment upfront.

It will roll out a new core network on the 400Mhz band for the National Police Network for data capture and transmission to a command center at Vigilance House.

John Tombleson, CFO, Safaricom expects rolling out of LTE to take place immediately after the signing of the contract with government next week.

The company had already begun testing the LTE network around Nairobi and Mombasa.

Because it runs on a lower frequency able to cover more ground, the LTE rollout may be cheaper than the operator's 3G network which requires a lot more radios mounted up.

Safaricom will use the LTE for last-mile connectivity with the main aim being to capture such markets as online streaming and triple play services.

The company has been expanding its fiber optic network to handle the backhaul.


 Amazon Web Services, the cloud computing arm of Amazon Inc., will establish a presence at the Kenya Internet Exchange Point soon.

KIXP officials indicate the Cloudfront Content Delivery Network will be the third large CDN after Akamai Technologies also set up a presence there while Google set up a cache allowing content such as youtube videos to be accessed much faster and save local firms thousands of dollars.

KIXP is the peering exchange point for Internet Service Providers and other operators to exchange local traffic.

It allows local traffic to remain local and firms avoid paying international access fees. Traffic delivery times are also faster.

KIXP recently moved to Sameer Park's East Africa Data Center as it continued its unprecedented five year run as the fastest growing IXP globally, according to Technical Manager Barry Apudo.

The growth has been occasioned by e-government services such as KRA's online tax filing system, the Kenya Education Network KENET, the annual use of SMS to web query by the Kenya National Examination Council's exam results and so on.

Cloudfront will allow faster access of data.

Among Cloudfront's clients include; Netflix, Nokia, Conde Nast, Adobe, Foursquare, Pfizer etc.

Friday, May 9, 2014


When the deputy President William Ruto at a press conference the other day asked the Kenyan judicial courts to be responsible partners in the fight against terrorism, he might as well have been talking about the digital migration issue.
Few other issues demonstrate how sometimes our courts are divorcing themselves from the world in which they live in to deliver judgments than the digital migration issue.
From an initial deadline of June 2013 for Kenya to migrate to the digital TV platform, here we are in May 2014, a whole year later, and we still haven't migrated.
Reason; lawsuits, both frivolous and substantial have held up the process with no end in sight.
Meantime, the International Telecommunications Union imposed deadline for the entire globe to migrate to digital TV broadcasting by 2015 looms large.
At this rate, chaos beckons if Kenya does not get its act together and starts the migration with ample time to deal with glitches and problems that may arise.
On one hand you have the Consumer Federation of Kenya, an ambiguous self-appointed outfit, purporting to act on behalf of consumers whom it claims will be left out in the migration for inability to purchase the set-top boxes, on the other you have three prominent media houses demanding their own digital transmission license before they can allow their content to be broadcast digitally.
How rich?
Cofek's argument is easy to dispose of: First, the average cost of the set-top box that is in the market comes nowhere near the price of a TV set. For Cofek's argument to hold, the consumer they purport to protect must own a TV. The price of a TV is usually more than Sh8,000. The best-selling range of TVs, the 21-inch, retail for just over Sh10,000.
Is Cofek claiming that households can afford a TV but not a set-top box which goes for an average of Sh4,000.
Of course when it is presented as an issue of choice by agitators like Cofek, then many households may not have the discretionary spending to burn Sh4,000 on a device that Cofek portrays as an unnecessary punishment on citizens.
But the ITU deadline of digital migration of 2015 is real. When that happens what will the time-wasting Cofek say?
Kenyans in fact have already started to appreciate this reality. Ipsos, a research group in a recent study, shows that 99 per cent of Kenyans are aware of the impending digital migration.
Out of these 32 per cent have already purchased an STB (set-top box) with majority having bought theirs more than two months ago when migration was supposed to happen indicating clearly, that setting firm deadlines will motivate consumers to migrate.
Of the 68 per cent of Kenyans who have not bought an STB, Ipsos found that 62 per cent intend to purchase one, another 13 per cent will buy a digital TV with the digital receiver already integrated.
Only 23 per cent said they would not purchase an STB. Why then is Cofek seeking to block migration when majority clearly intend to migrate?
Kenyan courts must toss out frivolous lawsuits meant to delay inevitable happenings when they clearly are not based on facts but are driven by self-serving outfits executing the agendas of faceless industry players they dare not name.
In any case, besides government removing duty to make STBs more affordable to Kenyans some providers like GoTV have gone ahead to sign financing agreements for their boxes with the popular MPESA service MShwari allowing would-be consumers to pay for these boxes conveniently.
However, and this should tell us that many Kenyans have already seen the need to migrate, no sooner have Kenyans migrated than they find that three of the local news channels, Citizen, KTN and NTV are missing from their bouquet despite being assured by the industry regulator CAK that these would be available.
I asked Multichoice staff why they are denying Kenyans these channels and was told that in fact the question would be best addressed by the media houses themselves.
Apparently, it is they, after going to court to fight digital migration on the grounds that they deserved to also be given a transmission license, who decided to withdraw their content from GoTV.
In an April last month decision, the Supreme Court decided to issue orders barring digital signal transmitters and content aggregators from carrying content from these media houses without their consent.
"That Signet Kenya Limited, Startimes Kenya Ltd, Pan African Network Group Kenya Ltd and GoTV be, and are hereby prohibited from broadcasting any content from Royal Media Services Ltd, Nation Media Group Ltd, Standard Media Group Ltd without their consent pending the hearing and determination of the intended appeal," Supreme Court, April 11, 2014.
It turns out that on the strength of this order, the media houses withdrew the content.
"GoTV is willing and able to restore the channels immediately but requires the permission of the channel to do so," a GoTV spokesman said. "At this stage, permission has not been given."
This is another example of courts being misused to frustrate policy, innovation and development.
The truth of the matter is, media houses have h

Friday, March 21, 2014


Shivan Bhargava
Adil El Yousseffi
Airtel Kenya MD Shivan Bhargava has quit to be replaced by Adil El Yousseffi, Tigo Ghana boss.
Staff at the company were informed that Shivan would be looking to spend more time with his family presumably in India.
His departure marks the second high profile exit of an Indian executive at Park Side Towers, Mombasa Road following the return to India of Manoj Kohli, Bharti Airtel who was co-CEO and MD of the International business. Kohli relinquished these positions to become MD of Bharti Enterprises, the non-telecommunications part of Bharti. He is also the chairman of Bharti International which overseas Airtel Africa.
In both cases non-Indians are coming in to replace them perhaps reflecting a shift in the thinking of Company chair Sunnil Mittal. Manoj Kohli was replaced as MD for International by Christian de Faria.
Besides Kohli, former Anglophone Africa Airtel CEO Jayant Khosla also left as the company asked executives to take a cut in their hefty allowances.
Shivan rose to the corner office from the position of Chief Operating Oficer in September 2011 to replace Paraguayan Rene Meza who left for Vodacom Tanzania as CEO.
Airtel has been making a number of indigenous board and executive appointments across the African continent recently perhaps recognizing need for home grown experience to drive its strategy.
Some of these have been strategic such as the appointment of Alain Roger Coefe as board chairman of Airtel Burkina Faso. Coefe has been a government minister, a UNDP executive in West Africa and a World Bank consultant.
Same case applies for the appointment of Jean-Pierre Kimalaya as board chair Airtel DRC. He was the Economic Advisor to President Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Others include Claude Ayo Iguendha as board chair in Gabon.
Airtel late last year decided to make what it called Apex level changes which saw the formation of a Governance Board oversighting the entire business. It is composed of Sunnil Mittal and his two Vice-Chairmen, as well as Manoj Kohli and four Bharti veterans.
In Africa the business was restructured into four business units, Nigeria and DRC are stand alone, while one cluster consists of Zambia, Congo Brazzaville, Malawi, Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad, Madagascar and Seychelles. This cluster is led VG Somasekhar.
Kenya is clustered with Ghana, Uganda, Tanzania, Gabon, Sierra Leone and Rwanda in the other business unit which is led by Christophe Soulet.
Soulet has also worked with Tigo in Ghana and DRC explaining the connection with Adil El Yousseffi, a Moroccan who has been heading Tigo, Ghana.