I must admit that CJ, the guy who owns Jamii Telecom is a master businessman; he laid fiber in all major towns when companies were wondering whether to do it or not and when others were focussing on the end user market, he focused on the corporates, they hire his infrastructure to push products to the end user.
Having brains with no connections is almost useless and that is why CJ had both. He managed to partner with Safaricom, they did not have to lay fiber of course because they dilly dallied when companies like Wananchi and Access Kenya were laying and also because JTL had country wide infrastructure.
It looked like a great deal, maybe it still is but those who have tried to get fiber from Safaricom will tell you, it takes too long (30 days or thereabouts) for them to survey and deliver fiber which means that prospective customers get frustrated and move on to others.
In the many things I do, I met a frustrated customer who just wanted to know why it takes that long. Even before you ask Safaricom, you also know- if the infrastructure belongs to someone else, then the decision on efficiency is entirely on them coz you can only push them that far.
I am not sure of the financial arrangement but I am sure Safaricom is paying them well to have exclusive use of the infrastructure but it could explain why Safaricom is unable to compete with Wananchi and Access Kenya. JTL recently pushed their fiber to Karen and Valley Arcade but the others are spreading at even a faster pace.
Zuku has been vilified because of crappy customer support and slow speeds in some areas but people also at times do not understand the co-relation between paying lower fees and quality of service, but that debate is for another day.
For the outer areas like Uthiru, kinoo.. etc and other areas where Zuku is not crowded, the people paying 1 or 2k enjoy good service and are happy.
For Safaricom, the low end market is dependent of wimax, and with the spectrum issues, network architecture and the peculiar ways that Kenyans use internet, it cant offer very low prices that compete, for those of us wanting to pay 4k and less for uncapped internet, not the 3G modem.
The only way for Safaricom was to lay their own fiber, which means they can control the speed and efficiency and the costs. Someone told me that laying of the fiber will simply move it from just being a recurrent expenditure to an asset, or something like that, you know accountants, plus I wasn’t listening very carefully 🙂
So, when Safaricom was announcing their results last month, I was following online and I tweeted Bob Collymore asking whether they will stop using JTL fiber once they get they get their own. He said it was not a matter of either or, it was just to increase the options, which is good for end users because it means redundancy.
Without digressing too much, I have always wondered why companies cant just share infrastructure. I will not suggest that the government or city council should have invested in a fiber that all can buy from but just think about the amount of digging you have seen across Nairobi roads for the last four years. The latest was Soliton, laying for Ecofon, a new provider. Don’t forget there is the National Fiber Optic Backbone (NOFBI) that Telkom Kenya manages and sells $50 per km of dark fiber- this should be a post on its own, on how companies expect to access free- talk of “tunaomba serikali” syndrome 🙂
So, I am wondering whether laying of own fiber will make Safaricom compete more in the lower end market. If you are in the upper end, I am sure you are sorted. You can also read any of these posts done before.
You can now expect Safaricom to start offering you connections to your house or small office at 2k…. in two years. I mean good stable service, not modem 🙂