AFSAT Communications has sent more than a quarter of its Kenyan workforce home in a move which sources at MWEB say are meant to strengthen the company. MWEB is the subsidiary of Telkom South Africa which bought AFSAT Communication Ltd. The VSAT network operator is also feeling the effects of the fibre penetration and the new South African owners are doing lots of cost-cutting including staff layoffs and merger of competing business unites from Africa Online and AFSAT. More than 25 employees from AFSAT communications have already been handed letters informing them that their services would not be needed from 30th April. Others are set to know their fate by 2nd May. Some of the affected workers are in the middle level management.

According to my sources, more than 30 of the approximately 100 staff members in Kenya have been sent home and others are set to leave by 30th April. This has come as a surprise to many of the staff in Kenya who were not aware of this until just one week ago when they were informed of the development. With the penetration of the fibre and also multiple cables landing at the Kenyan coast, most of the companies have reduced the dependency on VSAT and rely more on different cables for redundancy.

Other VSAT operators like Alldean, Commcarrier, Harun, Simbanet and Telkom Kenya are said also to be struggling. The Iway Africa, operating locally as AFSAT Communications Limited, has presence in 30 African countries with more than 5,000 VSATs and 60,000 corporate clients. The company also depends on more than 30 distributors in Africa to do most of the sale and support of clients accross the continent.

While Kenya and Tanzania might have access to fibre links, countries like Rwanda, Uganda and Sudan still depends alot on VSAT services. AFSAT and Africa Online were bought by Telkom South Africa through its MWEB subsidiary and are all merged under iWay Africa.

The merger of AFSAT and Africa Online was suppose to give birth to a new company called iWay Africa Services which is different from iWay Africa but the changeover is taking longer than expected. . Afsat offers data and internet connectivity on VSAT (Very Small Aperture Terminal) services while Africa Online has a more terrestrial outlook through Wimax (Wireless)