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Friday, September 30, 2011


TKL CEO Ghossein
There is a cable that runs the length and breadth of this country; the National Optic Fiber Backbone Infrastructure (NOFBI) and it is owned by the Government of Kenya. It goes to the remotest of locations where private cable operators like Kenya Data Networks and Jamii Telecom would not venture.

It is run by Telkom Kenya but it carries very little traffic simply because it is unreliable and has too much downtime. Right now, efforts are underway to change the way it is managed and even suggestions of splitting management of different sections and handing it to different players has been floated.

Telkom Kenya which got the deal to run the cable mostly because when it was laid it used to terminate at TKL's offices in different towns as the company was then state-owned.

TKL was to avail the capacity to other operators at a given costs as government wanted it to be affordable.

That however has proved to be unsustainable as TKL claims the money it gets is not enough for it to operate and maintain NOGBI.

Government is pissed. Language coming from top officers in the Ministry of Information and Communication suggests Telkom may just get the boot.

TKL claims it has come to an understanding with other operators where they will share the maintenance costs and TKL will run and maintain the cable and also sign Service Level Agreements but the government is not buying it.

Telkom insiders claim government misunderstands the issue but government claims TKL have messed up and it is time to figure out how to throw them out.

"They are messing. They have messed. I think we'll have to take it (NOFBI) away from them," a source at the Ministry said.

Watchers of all this unfold like Safaricom say they have no strong feelings about the issue. "Between KDN, Kenya Power and Jamii there is enough cable in the country," one Safaricom exec said. "What Mickhael (Telkom CEO) should do is just tell the government, pay me nothing, just give me the cable, let me run it and I'll even pay you."

AccessKenya on the other hand prefers a sort of consortium to be formed to run NOFBI.

Either way, this is an important resource that should not be wasted. Particularly, when counties come into place, some of them could decide to build fiber to home and connect to NOFBI bringing high speed internet access to their citizens.

Not only would this promote growth, it would also thwart telecoms efforts to charge an arm and a leg for data access on the maddeningly, unscrupulous premise that; "We have to recover our costs."

Of course you have to recover your cost of investment but who said it should happen in two years? Should apartment rents be charged at Sh200,000 so that the building owner can recoup his investment? What happens after he recoups? Is he or the telecom going to offer the service for free or at cost since they have recouped their costs?

Nairobitech thinks NOFBI should be placed in the hands of the entity that safeguards such a utility best and promotes last mile projects best.

1 comment:

  1. It's a pity to have such an invaluable resource lying around unutilized.