Orange Kenya yesterday launched the Orange 42Mbps Internet Everywhere modem which offers users the speed of the normal standard of up to 42Mbps. Starting today, Thursday 2nd August, customers will be able to purchase the 42Mbps modem at a price of Kshs 10,000 and experience the fast data speeds within some parts of Nairobi. The areas covered are Nairobi CBD (Uhuru Park, University Way, Ngara Round About, Kirinyaga Road, Ring Road and Haile Selassie Avenue), Westlands areas (Riverside drive, Rhapta Road, Lower Kabete, Peponi road, Parklands, Sarit Center, Westgate) and areas around Nakumatt Junction, Nakumatt Galleria, and Nakumatt Mega.
When I did a blog post announcing the launch of 42Mbps by Orange here, most people found it funny that Orange Kenya is launching 42Mbps while they yet not able to deliver 21 Mbps to most users. According to some, Orange advertised 21 Mbps, they bought into it but they are not getting even 10% of it. I asked the same question during the launch but it was somehow sidestepped.
Anyway the problem is not because orange is lying about 21Mbps or even 42 Mbps. The problem is within the infrastructure outlay of Orange and especially the base stations. Download speeds of 3G/HSPA data connections and connection reliability are heavily dependent on 3G signal quality. The signal strength depends on the distance to the base station, the equipment and the surroundings of the user.
Orange has 1000 base stations around the country with the majority of them being within the major towns and cities. At the moment, according to the stats by CCK for the last quarter, Orange Kenya has 610142, data/internet subscribers. Assuming that Base Stations are evenly distributed and each serves equal number of Orange subscribers, then you get 610 subscribers for each base station. So there you have 21Mbps to be shared by 610people. If all the 610 subscribers try to access 21mbps at the same time, then each of them will only get a speed of around (21mbps/610) 34kbps.
The above problem can be easily be rectified in two ways. Increase the number of base stations and by Infrastructure sharing. Increasing the number of base station means spending which probably they are still not ready for at the moment. That leaves the option of base stations sharing with the other operators. The three Mobile network operators Orange, Safaricom, Airtel have enough base stations around Kenya but why they can’t share the resources is beyond my pay grade. If orange can agree with Safaricom for example to share their combined base stations, then such a problem and statements like the following posted on twitter will not be there
May be it is easier said than done considering each individual business interest and the fact that they are locked in a stiff competition.