Confusion Everywhere over the Deployment of 4G Network in Kenya

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Confusion all over, regarding the deployment of the 4G or Long-Term Evolution (LTE). A few days ago I received an email with MTN Business Kenay Managing Director Tom Omariba insisting that the consortium or public private partnership (PPP) model is the most ideal for the deployment of 4G.

Omariba said that the 9-member consortium set up to drive the deployment of the country’s LTE network is the best way to go as it would lead to the provision of enhanced and more efficient ICT services in the country.

“We started from 2G, then moved to 3G and are now set to deploy the 4G or LTE network. The LTE infrastructure has several benefits the main ones being that it would enable users to do more in terms of data speeds and volumes that can be transferred as well as the fact that there is no need for many base transmission stations (BTS),

The costs of maintenance of the network will eventually come down as one BTS can cover longer comparatively longer distances, meaning that with LTE, coverage is more for the same amount of initial capital expenditure or CaPEx,”

Mr. Omariba said above statement during a panel discussion on digital ecosystem evolution at the 9th East Africa Com conference held at Nairobi’s Safari Park Hotel on May 21 – 22

The alleged  9-member LTE consortium – includes Kenya government (through Treasury), Safaricom, Telkom Kenya-Orange, Airtel, Essar Telecom’s yuKenya, KDN, MTN, Alcatel-Lucent and Epesi Communications – and was set up to implement the initial phase of the project at cost of Kshs 8.4 billion.

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The reason why Mr. Omariba was talking like that is due to the suggestion that Safaricom had expressed willingness to deploy its own LTE network. At the same time Ericsson had reportedly proposed to build a country-wide 4G network for free and recover the costs after a 15-year period. Ericsson move in particular is seen as an  automatic way to  scuttle the 9-member consortium.

Omariba further said:

“The private sector is selfish that’s why we’ve delayed the roll-out of the LTE/4G network in the country. There’s been no much progress made by the consortium since they were set up apart from lots of stakeholder meetings and discussions with various teams including legal, financial and taxation,”

So while in Mombasa for Connected Kenya I asked Nzioka Waita of Safaricom what is going on with the 4G deployment and the consortium. Mr.Nzioka flatly denied the existence of consortium.

“There is no Consortium and Safaricom is not testing 4G.  I don’t think there is need for 4G  connection at the moment, while the country is still under utilizing the available 3G connection “

I was surprised with that, because I have attended a number of events where Safaricom have indicated that they  are testing 4G.  There are two possible scenarios to explain what Safaricom is up to . One is that Safaricom is secretly testing 4G and does not want to talk about it because of the Consortium Politics. The second is that those earlier talks by Safaricom about 4G were just talks, which by the way would be unfortunate.

4G aside ,  Mr.Nzioka said that the country is utilizing less than 50% of the available 3G connection. I found that very interesting. To begin with I have Safaricom 42 Mbps Modem, which ideally should allow me to download up to the speed of 42Mb/s. I also have the 21Mbps Modem and the best I have ever seen from any of them is a max speed of 1.2Mb/s. I know someone from Safaricom will say..oooh it depends with website your browsing and bla bla .Yes I do understand that but since I browse all sort of websites , I should get something respectable and not average of below 100kb/s. Can’t I get even a third of what is promised by Safaricom?

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