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Sunday, March 28, 2010


you live on King'ara road just next to the Gitanga road and James Gichuru intersection, you might be among the first people to experience true fiber optic to the home speeds courtesy of AccessKenya. The firm which recently launched its metro fiber network mostly relies on WiMax radios to transmit to homes but that may all change.

The company will attempt to use a technology called GPON (Gigabit Passive Optical Network) basically where you derive a line from one point on the fiber optic network to serve multiple points such as different apartments in an apartment block. Access will also try out IPTV and will make a decision in three months time.

The recent developments make Access a must buy for the coming few years. AccessKenya's profits dipped this past year perhaps explaining the tepid performance by its stock on the NSE even as other stocks rocket from last year's lows.

But of the shares showing promise on the bourse, it is Access that I would recommend anyone to buy now. At Sh20 it is not only cheap but following the launch of its metro-fiber network two weeks ago, this is a company that is poised for incredible growth.

Now, Jonathan Stichbury the CEO of AIG Investments EA, privately feels Access will sell itself to Safaricom in two years time but the times I have spoken to Jonathan Somen, (above R) Access CEO, he has outrightly denied that he would be looking to sell.

AccessKenya's most low profile investment of the last few years may yet turn out to be its best. Those guys in yellow coveralls that had become ubiquitous along Nairobi roads digging trenches were actually laying out a simple strategy: to connect four parts of Nairobi with underground cable and then use the resultant ring to launch into buildings and homes across Nairobi.

At each of those four locations is a sort of hub or node. Four nodes anchor the network. There is a node at Barclay's Plaza, CBD, one at Rahimtulla Towers, Upper Hill, Bandari Plaza, Westlands and Yaya Towers, Yaya.

Simply put, AccessKenya is the best placed company to dominate the data market in the coming years especially with the launch of its metro fiber.

Its goal is to first of all pipe 250 buildings within Nairobi from where tenants can tap into its capacity. It envisages about 100Mg per building. (I use Mg here to mean the size of the pipe that will be dedicated to each building as opposed to the speed at which data flows in it).

BY using its relative advantage in the data market (Jonathan Somen's favourite refrain is: "We know DATA!") the company will seek to beat back a strong push by the other listed ISP in Kenya, that venerable green giant, Safaricom which has been seeking to extend its voice dominance to the data market.

Unfortunately for Safaricom which has a legacy of voice technology infrastructure, clients have been less than impressed. Its millions of users have been straining its network and dropped connections are common. Last month, I&M attempted to demo its new Visa International partner status by taking scribes through a transaction. Four attempts to go online via Safaricom's modem failed and we had to settle for a powerpoint demo.

Access is also experimenting with fiber to the home and other technology that can rope in residential clients.

AIG Stichbury feels as an investor you can always bet on good management and certainly Access has that.

Jonathan Somen is an astute businessman and takes no prisoners as witnessed last year when he fell out with Henry Njoroge the head of OpenView, a subsidiary of AccessKenya.

Somen felt the OpenView, where he had not only bought 70 per cent shareholding from Njoroge, but also retained him as MD, was not pulling its weight. Testy board meetings were held back in February 2009 where Jonathan pushed to buy the remaining 30 per cent of the business from Njoroge.

By August Njoroge and a few other managers were out and the business has been renamed Access IT. Somen blamed it for the hit in profitability his firm took but he also pointed to the heavy capital expenditure his firm laid out in the metrofiber network.

Now it remains to be seen how Access goes after the data market.


  1. mmmmmh.........not a bad idea...

  2. i have used Access at home product and its fantastic.the rates are good.we have long been waiting for the fibre network.congrats Access Group.i hope u will do better than KDN