Exclusive: Able Wireless to Enter the Kenyan Voice Market

Kamunyu (IMG Credits-SmartMonkeyTV)

Kenya’s Able Wireless, an on-demand wireless streaming service provider is set to enter Kenya’s voice industry by harnessing VoIP services exclusively for its subscribers.

Speaking to TechMoran about the development, Able Wireless co-founder and CEO Kahenya Kamunyu said, “We are looking at switching voice calls such as GoogleTalk, Facebook calls and others to link our users who are connected to a Wi-Fi network. We are not building an app. We want to have enhanced service for Facebook calling and routing it locally to our network instead of how it’s being done.”

Kamunyu told TechMoran the Able Wireless device (which is being built in China) will come with an in-built microphone and camera to allow users  call their friends via their TV screens.

“It’s routed through a special channel. I want them to try and swtich locally so users cannot burn so much money. With that we can also do numbered calling for our users. Our intertnal network will have an internal numbered network and our users can call their friends over TV.”

Able Wireless, which was supposed to have launched earlier blames its woes on regulators. it even had to close its Kenyan assembly plant and sale its machinery after the government forced it to relocate the manufacture and assembly to China insead of doing them here.

“The regulator said they were falling internal processes and the new board was just kickstarting its affairs. I will believe them even though it was a long and expensive wait. Government is the greatest stumbling block to local innovations. There’s no way we’re going to set up an assembly plant in Ruaraka then the govt tells us to move it away. Government gets more money from us than our investors. We pay more for taxes than for bandwidth. The govt is just talking but doesn’t help locals build anything,” Kamunyu told TechMoran.

Angered at the recent Sh15 billion security tender awarded to Safaricom, the entrepreneur pointed out why governments need to pull out of business and only deliver public services as mandated by the electorate and not meddle into private businesses or even invest in them.

“The government has no businesses doing business. I’ts hard for the government to regulate itself and should let the private sector do businesses. We have so much conflict of interest as Safaricom is set to do security. It’s one huge conflict of interest as Safaricom can access your records without just cause and label you  terrorist,” he added.

Safaricom, Kenya’s leading mobile network operator by subscribers and revenue was launched in 1997 by Telkom Kenya. In 2000, UK’s Vodafone Group Plc acquired a 40% stake while the Kenyan government and individual investors own the rest. The Kenyan government also owns stakes in firms such as Multichoice Kenya (GOtv) and Startimes.

According to the entreprenuer, Safaricom is a mobile operator not a security provider and Kenya should be moving be moving away from such deals and not moving towards. He wonders how the government will regulate Safaricom, a company it owns and tenders security bids to it.

“The govt needs to pull out of Orange, Safaricom and only run parastatals. The market will not be independent as long as the govt has shares in them,” he said.

Able Wireless, a delivery service and not a content retailer says it’s not afraid of others and has done it’s best best to provide a platform other content providers to deliver their content. Through it’s partner AIB Capital the firm says it has raised enough money to do business in Kenya and is willing to go all the way.

With over 38,000 people knocking on its door for services, Able Wireless says its ready to roll out. It’s target is the middle and low income earners, students and everyone who wants premium content at an affordable at just Shs 500 a month. Able Wireless has signed a deal with 3 ISPs to supply them with internet and has a growing number of content providers.

“Mobile phones have taught us we are not a wired market. The firms laying fiber will only take them to banks, hospitals and a majority will be left out. They will need Able Wireless. We are not a content provider. People knock in seeking us to distribute their content, some of these guys have prepared content already and also county TV stations are going to be many. There’s massive content that will need to be distributed. I was doubtful of that earlier but already we are near the quota of exceeding our content,” said Kamunyu.

Able Wireless says it’s network design is radically different from ordinary operator and is ready to provide an infrastructure for guys who can afford it. The platform aims to take content from it’s partners to everyone. The firm now has a member in China working with the manufactures for its latest device and is already signing up content disributors.

As everyone talks of hype and replicating in Africa. Kamunyu says Able Wireless started the device long before everyone else and the firm didn’t start because so and so had started but wanted to solve a probem which no one else was solving.

Able Wireless is no longer the Rasperry Pi it once was but has been modified and custom-build and appears more like an Apple TV device. Kamunyu also says the device has been tested in several countries and it works perfectly. Able Wireless says it’s a complimentary service to TV and will never replace or compete TV but will help the firms to reach more users.  The firm will make money via monthly susbcription plus operator billing, ads localised to a user’s language or region among others.

“We did our best, on a shoe-string budget and burned alot of money of our own. The government has no hand in helping us built it. We shall pay taxes and move on. Our business is a volumes business, if we have 500 customers we are losing money. Were trying to cut out the whole bundle nonsense. Our internet policy in Kenya is skewed against the poor who end up paying more. We are solving these,” Kamunyu concluded.