Liquid Telecom Kenya’s retail broadband product, Hai, is acquiring linear TV licenses under its Kwese brand to take on Zuku, StarTimes and Multichoice in a retail push that will see it offer broadband, linear TV and VoD services for its customers across Africa.
“We still don’t have a tentative date for a Kenyan launch but when Kwese launches we’ll first bundle it into Hai,” Joel Muigai, Head of Business Development, Hai told TechMoran. “We’re not looking to just triple play, we’ll have more channels to offer more products.”
Already, Kwese’s Kwese Sports, has acquired rights to broadcast the English Premier League into 50 countries in Africa and this week signed up televangelist Bishop TD Jakes. Hai at the moment is pushing for broadband penetration before its new linear TV service Kwese is revealed. It’s VoD service, iPidi is already bundled in Hai. iPidi is a Netflix competitor. Today the firm signed up Vice Mediato cover 17 countries across Africa.
Launched in February this year, Hai offers super-fast Internet and interoffice connectivity and on-demand content to to customers in the Home, Business and Enterprise markets.
“Hai is a retail product targeted at the mass market,” Muigai said. “Our target as Liquid Telecom Kenya was to serve the corporate market but after looking at the utilization of our fiber broadband, we realized it was too low.”
According to Muigai, Liquid Telecom Kenya had connected 1000 buildings in major towns to its broadband but lacked a product that would be required by the retail market especially the SOHO and SMEs and residential customers.
“We had to look for a new brand to serve our retail customers and that’s how Hai came into existence,” he adds. “We’re basing on automation and pushing the customers to go to our website. We’ve already geo-mapped our networks behind the website. The system will tell you what is available in your area. Either Wimax or wireless, Fibre cable, VSAT or Gigabit-capable Passive Optical Networks (GPON).”
Now live in Zambia, Rwanda and Kenya, Hai has automated everything and is a purely prepaid business from the start. Interested customers visit the Hai website, indicate their location, choose between the Home or Office package, pick a bouquet and then indicate whether they have equipment fitted already or not, then pay for their order. This automatically alerts a technician to come and fix the remaining bit.
And the automation is working. In Rwanda, Hai has already reached 2000 homes. In Nairobi, Muigai says Hai is available in several parts of the city. The firm has a GPON covering Runda, Greenstead and another in Kitengela and Athi. The GPON covers around 20 km radius for Athi River, Syokimau and Kitengela. The firm is also expanding its pilot to Edenville and Roselyn Heights in the next few weeks.
“We have covered Rongai, Kiserain, Syokimau, Kiambu, Limuru, parts of Eastlands among others.We’re coming to other parts of the town in the next Phase. We are fitting one GPON for Langata, one for Embakasi and one for Westlands then expand according to demand. Karen is connected to our fiber while parts of Ngong Road are connected to our Wimax,” said Muigai.
To utilize its infrastructure and resources, Hai checks the best available alternative for each customer. There are areas it has fitted fiber broadband already while others have wireless technology or VSAT. Hai will pick any of this three technologies to deliver its broadband.
If a customer is out its 1000 fiber connected buildings or its 72 WIMAX networks and then Hai will use its Satellite service for the customer whether it’s for home or office use. There is either a Wimax or a GPON, a fiber to the home or VSAT.
Muigai says Hai is not so keen to go into VoIP as Kenya’s GSM penetration has been so different and Kenya’s calling rates are cheaper than most markets. He adds that in Kenya, it’s cheaper to call your colleagues than in other markets so the mobile phone is still important. Hai, however, will do VoIP for enterprise as corporate firms still need a fixed line.
Some of the challenges Hai has faced is that the Kenyan market has been taught to believe that a broadband connection is only fiber and people wondered when they didn’t see fiber in some cases.
“When we launched Hai, everyone thought it was fibre for the home. It’s broadband but depending on where you live, the system determines what technology you’ll use,” Muigai says. Another challenge the firm has faced is the change in processes as Liquid Telecom was used to serving corporate firms who are used to personal attention, but going into retail it makes it time consuming to give each customer personal attention. Hence the automation.
“But launching Hai, we’ve automated everything as it is a purely prepaid business and that was a challenge as Kenyans are used to paying after trials,” he says. “Internally, our processes were automated and the guys were hired on contract were not used to the systems.”
The firm’s call centre teams were also not used to the automated process and the contractors doing the installation had to be reminded to check their emails for automated customer orders as the system allocates the job to a contractor via email after the customers pay.
After connecting thousands of homes to its broadband, Hai, a Liquid Telecom product will then launch Kwese, its linear TV programming in Kenya, Rwanda and Zambia.