Home Tech Exclusive: Safaricom to Launch Super-fast Public Wi-Fi Hotspots in Nairobi

Exclusive: Safaricom to Launch Super-fast Public Wi-Fi Hotspots in Nairobi

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SafaricomSafaricom is set to deploy WiFi hotspots in Nairobi and then expand to other key towns in the country according to demand in a move set to meet the growing needs of data consumers in the country.

To do this, the firm has signed a multi-year deal with Ericsson to install a microwave transmission network as part of its continued Network modernization plans. The firm is upgrading theMicrowave Links to meet growing  data needs across the country. This new Wi-fi locations will be  largely be served by Safaricom’s extensive fiber footprint. The Wi-Fi will not be free.

Speaking Exclusively to TechMoran, Thibaud Rerolle, Director, Technology, Safaricom said, “Yes, we are deploying WiFi in the coming months in Narobi and the future plan is to expand to other key towns according to anticipated demand. The solution will act as an additional channel that our subscribers can use to access our data, so there will be some revenues earned from the development.”

Rerolle told TechMoran days after Safaricom had hired Ericsson to deploy a carrier-grade Wi-Fi technology solution to support the upgrade and expansion of its converged mobile network infrastructure to reduce mobile traffic congestion in the city. According to the two, the mini link microwave transmission network will help Kenya’s largest telco to optimize its use of spectrum resources and as well enhance its 3G services, and boost broadband app coverage especially in the city.

Today, the firm announced it had finished its Sh10 billion network upgrade as it moves to 4G LTE technology  and it aims to move 16 cities to 4G by year end. Narok county was the last of its last stop on thenetwork modernisation process. The firm aims to invest another Sh18 billion to upgrade its network this year.

Speaking about the Ericsson deal, Rerolle said,”This initiative is part of our continued Network modernization plans. We are upgrading Microwave Links to meet growing  data needs across the country. Wi-fi locations will be  largely be served by our extensive fiber footprint.”

Safaricom has FTTH and to the FTTP networks, but its entry into provision public wi-fi networks will break most of its competitors such as Zuku, Orange and Liquid Telecom.Safaricom has the largest number of subscribers in the country. It becomes easier for one to move from their Safaricom mobile data to Safaricom Wi-Fi. Using its M-Pesa, users can seamless pay for the service too minus cueing in too much details. It feels safe to be on one provider on 3G or 4G plus Wi-Fi as long as the networks as stable and the prices affordable.

Airtel is also modernising its networks to 4G ready and this might bring competiton if it also launches public Wi-Fi hotspots. Several firms including Wananchi Group’s Zuku might have a hard time convincing users to remain loyal. Earlier Zuku was the only firm with triple play services. With Safaricom’s launch of the Big Box with a huge content inventory, things might not be so good for Zuku but at the end of the day users want choice and flexibility and both firms will be able to cater for the growing needs of data and TV consumers. Safaricom’s biggest challenge now would be reviving unlimited data for data-heavy users who look at bundles as expensive and unsustainable.

This will not be the first time the firm is doing this. The firm’s attempt of free Wi-Fi in Matatu’s dubbed Vuma Online died quietly but many Public Service Vehicles still have the stickers to attract data hungry youth into their Matatu’s. Elsewhere, Google, BT and Boingo Wireless have been on the forefront of public Wi-Fi networks.


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