Data, voice and IP provider Liquid Telecom Kenya has invested between $340,000 and $400,000 to revamp the stalled Nakuru Wi-Fi project, a move that will see over 1,600,000 Nakuru residents enjoy free Wi-Fi in the CBD, stadium, the market and several adjacent areas to the CBD of the fourth largest urban centre in the country.
Speaking exclusively to TechMoran, Ben Roberts, CEO Liquid Telecom Kenya said, “The Nakuru Wi-Fi project was done earlier and didn’t have the capacity and bandwidth to deliver to expectations. We were approached by the Office of the President and by the county as technology experts building Wi-Fi neworks to have a look at what was done. Part of our strategic plan is to roll out W-Fi to different towns in the country. For us, Nakuru was a time to pilot, and there was demand from the County. We also have a good number of clients in the town and we see it as an opportunity to expand, Nakuru became a good case for us.”
“We’ve designed and rolled out a new network, with 40 base stations connected and 68 planned,” said Roberts. “What’s key for us is to put the infrastructure up and keep testing it. We haven’t launched any services there, but the infrastructure is there with up to 40Mbps download speeds. We’ve marked out the planning and we’re looking at where people use it mostly.”
Liquid Telecom says it’s neither a supplier nor a contractor in any way to the Nakuru Wi-Fi project but sees the failed government project as an opportunity. The firm says it has invested over $340,000 of its own money to lay infrastructure and is working with the county to define the sites. The firm will offer its paid services to entreprise clients while the county runs activities for Wananchi indepedently. Roberts says Liquid Telecom will not charge the county or the central government.
The free Wi-Fi is only targeting public users in the streets while entreprises will have to pay Liquid Telecom to take fibre inside their premises. Liquid Telecom also aims to launch similar services in other smaller towns as long as they are secure. Earlier the firm had Lamu in mind but the curfew brought everything to a standstill.
Liquid Telecom has undertaken similar projects in Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe and it’s that experience that the county is banking on.
“In terms of the failed project, I don’t how much was spent or what happened. They had too few base stations and too high up the ground and the capacity wasn’t there,” added Roberts.
The free Wi-Fi will however, not be extended to residential areas as it’s a public Wi-Fi and not so safe for home use. Apart from the free Nakuru Wi-Fi, Liquid Telecom are the biggest investors in fibre to the home and is one of biggest investors in Africa’s Internet connectivity. In East Africa, the firm has invested over $20 million to lay 17,000 kilometres of fibre optic cable across Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi, the largest project of its kind in Africa.
In he State House Digital Team, together with the County Government of Nakuru and Infonet announced the Ksh 200m ($2m) project, which was supposed to be rolled out in phases, but unfortunately it was a flop from the start. Nakuru Governor Kinuthia Mbugua and State House Digital Director, Dennis Itumbi said the initiative was part of the Jubilee Government’s pledge to connect five towns to free WI-FI.
Itumbi earlier admitted to TechMoran that the project was poorly done but said he was working with Canadian ‘experts’ to install better equipment and make the free Wi-Fi work.