Fibre-optics 4 Kenya

Dear Friends.

Perhaps there is no country in the world that is so fibre hungry as Kenya. Kenya is positively bubbling with excitement over the imminent arrival of two submarine fibre-optic cables expected to light up sometime in July 2009.

The first is SEACOM which has already made landfall on Mombasa. SEACOM will have a bandwidth capacity of 1.28Tb/s an amazingly high bandwidth. This cable will connect Kenya with London via Marseille and on the other end with Mumbai in India and the third arm will link with Mtunzini in South Africa.

The second cable is the Public/Private sector Kenya government cable known by it’s acronym as TEAMS (The East African Marine System) cable. It too has already exercised an option in it’s contract to raise the bandwidth to 1.28Tb/s. According to the latest reports the laying of the cable has already covered 2000kms and has completed phase one. If the works proceed as scheduled without pirate incidents which the govt seems to have mitigated by asking unspecified foreign navies to defend the cable laying ship, then we may see landfall in Mombasa the first half of june 2009. This will be followed by several weeks of testing before the cable can officially be lit up and start beaming massive amounts of internet bandwidth.

This brings me to the other aspect. Tremendous efforts have been made to prepare the country for the arrival of the cable. First the Kenya govt has laid out the NOFBI (National Optic Fibre Backbone Infrastructure) which has now become FONN (Fibre Optic National Network). Secondly several private firms among them KDN (Kenya Data Networks) have also embarked on laying out fibre-optic networks terrestrially. The media too has done a good job in publicising the imminent arrival of this cables. But I think the Kibaki govt must be praised for their great foresight in pushing this projects through. PS Dr. Bitange Ndemo, former minister Mutahi Kagwe and the current minister Sam Poghisio all deserve praise. Their efforts may see Kenya usher in a new technological revolution that may lift Kenyans out of poverty and lead us to the next stage of middle income status.  

For those of you following IT developments closely you must be aware of the innovative tech-savvy startups that are springing up all over Kenya. There is an enormous potential for Kenya to capture a significant share of the BPO (Business Processes Outsourcing) market. The fact that the govt has already realised the benefit of e-govt [e.g it is now possible to file tax returns to KRA (Kenya Revenue Authority) online] is itself a very welcome move. This has the potential to reduce or eradicate corruption by cutting out redtape. If it is then rolled out to include e-justice, e-medicine, e-education, e-agriculture, e-finance, e-commerce and e-politics then the transformation will be complete.

The success of the mobile phone concept the mushrooming tech companies like Ushahidi,  concepts like Txt-Eagle, MPesa and many others show Kenya can be the next Savannah Valley or Safari Valley(Silicon Valley) of the world. Already Google, Microsoft and Cisco have started seeing the potential in Kenya. If only the Kenyan politicians could put their lust for power on hold for a while we could see a serious economic growth led by the tech sector. The spinoffs for agriculture, tourism and education could be very favourable.  

Finally their is yet more good news on the horizon next year  when EASSy (East African Submarine cable System) makes landfall second half of 2010. This cable will bring an additional 1.4Tb/s and connection to more countries within Africa. This will greatly reduce the costs of communication within Africa which should boost intra-African trade. It will also mean that Kenya will become a communications hub or node because landlocked countries vizualise Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, Southern Sudan and Ethiopia will want to be connected through Kenya because we will have a combined bandwidth capacity of upto 3.8Tb/s if you add up the capacity of the three cables. Due to the open access model of EASSy, a privately owned SEACOM and a hybrid of govt and private sector in TEAMS there will be competition and that should make prices for bandwidth drop from the highest in the world to probably the lowest in the world.

Finally though many may not think much of it there is another firm known as O3b (Other 3 Billion) which aims to launch a number of low flying satellites which would have the same latency capacity as fibre-optics. They argue that they may be more effective in the more remote regions of Africa where the FTTH (Fibre To The Home) and WiMax (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) concepts may be too expensive to roll out. I am therefore confident that Kenya will be radically changed when this technologies get rolled out. The optimist in me which is huge tells me we are about to encounter a fascinating and hopeful future.



4 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    kenyanobserver said,

    Nice overview. Nice to discover your blog. Will come back often.

    • 2

      jellyfishcoolman said,

      Thanks Kenyanobserver checked out yours too. Will constantly check you out because you have loads of content. I will be uploading alot more soon. Your are offcourse very welcome anytime.

  2. 3

    gmeltdown said,

    Good to find another optimist out there. Might you understand how NOFBI turned to FONN? Or at least the motivation behind the change of acronyms?

    You may need to clarify that Mutahi Kagwe was the former minister (trounced by on Kabando wa Kabando in 07 parliamentary elections) and Bitange Ndemo is still the PS. The two were a a fabulous pair. Hon Poghisio is also promising, being from a media/communication background.

    Our knowledge economy is surely becoming a reality. Our information industry just needs to turn from a consumer mentality to producer mentality.

  3. 4

    jellyfishcoolman said,

    Gmeltdown the change from NOFBI to FONN I believe was motivated by the cumbersome nature of the first acronym if we can call it that. I am not entirely sure that it has officially or legally been adopted but FONN is now being used by the media and the ministers when they refer to it. I think it is also easier for people to understand and retain. With regard to Mutahi Kagwe I stand corrected. Could you happen to know who was the PS before Dr. B. Ndemo?

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