Now they have an agreement. They have been the fiercest of competitors. Safaricom and Airtel are reported to be in an agreement to lay down a multi-million shilling national fibre optic network. According an article appearing on Business Daily, the two not so best of buddies have decided to invest in an infrastructure “to cut their reliance on third parties for wholesale internet.”
Safaricom has had a long-term plan to lay the national fibre link with the company top honchos believing that the money they spend paying to third-party providers like JTL and KDN are hurting their books. Safaricom was also one time reported to be in talks with JTL for a buyout but the talks collapsed when JTL owners demanded not so realistic buyout fee.
Safaricom and Airtel have both been locked in competition since early 2000 and later rekindled 2 years ago when Airtel launched competition in voice pricing. The companies are now more interested in the data market since both believe that voice market is almost fully exploited.
Safaricom’s Chief Executive Officer, Bob Collymore, revealed to Business Daily that the company approached all mobile operators in the country but only Airtel Kenya took up the offer. initiated talks with other operators including Telkom Kenya and Essar for the joint venture, but only Airtel took up the offer.
Both companies now have tower sharing agreement and have for a long time been urged to share all infrastructure but all have never been so enthusiastic about the whole arrangement. Airtel Kenya reportedly confirmed that’s talks on the possible joint venture “are at the discussion stage.” It is however not clear what length of network they will build in what areas and the costs involved plus the means of sharing.
The whole data business in Kenya looks shady with not even a single operator providing any true data experience. Kenya is still ranked in the 90s by Net Index on data speeds while the operators in the country compare the country to South Africa which does not share lots in common with the country.
For the average earnings per user to rise, I believe that the operators must strive to provide solutions which increase the earnings of the population. Now the data connections are very slow and Kenyans are being charged an arm and leg while all the major operators can do is engage in never-ending media propaganda about their very non-existent costs and bad experiences.
Almost all operators apart from yuMobile have been bragging about their 21Mbps 3G networks while the reality is that almost every user have not experienced true 3G on the networks. First trying to use true 3G on unlimited networks will not be good because all networks throttle the connection hence diminishing the quality.