Kenya’s internet users enjoy cheaper tariffs

NAIROBI, Kenya: June 26 (Xinhua) – Web browsers in Kenya are having a field day with the cost of internet in the country having been reduced significantly as mobile phone companies battle to increase their niche and subscriber base.

The telecommunication companies have lowered the price of acquiring internet devices and accessing the internet thus making it affordable for most users in the East Africa nation. The move has seen internet users pay as little as 11 U.S. cents a day to enjoy unlimited internet access on their mobile phones.

Similarly, one can buy a modem, which facilitates connection to the internet, from as low as 11 dollars down from 22 dollars. Leading the latest battle in search for internet subscribers are Airtel and Orange. The two companies are placed third and fourth in the mobile data sector market in the East African nation by the Communication Commission of Kenya (CCK).

The other two mobile phone companies are Safaricom and Yu, which are the biggest players in the data sector. Airtel, according to CCK as at December 2011, had 608,088 internet subscribers, which is about 10 percent of market share. Orange, on the other hand, had 110,538 subscribers, about 2 percent of market share while Yu had 669,982 subscribers, which is about 11 percent of market share and the leading Safaricom had 4.6 million subscribers with a market share of 77 percent. Airtel and Orange are thus battling to increase their market share.

The two firms in the past weeks have rattled the data market by lowering their internet tariffs and cost of internet devices. Airtel, which has 3.75G internet network, has dropped the cost of its modems by 57 percent. The company is retailing its 21 megabytes per second (Mbs) modem at 22 dollars down from 55 dollars while the price of its 7.2Mbs modem was cut by half to 11 dollars.

Subscribers using the devices further enjoy unlimited internet browsing at 1.7 dollars per day or 8.9 dollars per week. The offer comes with free access of Facebook.

“Airtel has decided to offer its customers affordable superior quality communication and service. The offer on the modems is a demonstration of this proposition,” Airtel Kenya’s managing director Shivan Bhargava said.

The move by Airtel to slash the cost of modem has made the telcos devices to be the cheapest in the Kenyan market. Market leader Safaricom sells its 7.2Mbs modem for 22 dollars while its 21Mbs modem goes for 119 dollars. Orange and Yu sell their modems at about similar prices.

However, while Airtel with its offer targets individual internet users, Orange has gone for small and medium enterprises (SME). Last week, the mobile firm unveiled a 3G Wi-Fi router for small enterprises. The device allows 20 users to access internet wirelessly at the same time. The gadget retails at 439 dollars and has an internal billing system, which helps the organization to track volume of data used by each user.

“This product will improve business processing among SME and help boost revenues. The sector continues to experience constraints in accessing information and technology yet it contributes to 18.4 percent of the country’s GDP and employs over five million people,” noted Orange Kenya CEO Mickael Ghossein.

The four companies have also taken the battle for subscribers to mobile phone internet users, who are the majority. Some of the telecommunication firms have come up with unlimited internet offers that allow users to pay as little as 11 U.S. cents and access 10mb of internet each day.

Others have daily and weekend packs for mobile data users. For instance, one can choose to pay 0.5 cent per minute or 40 cents per day to enjoy unlimited internet access.

“We appreciate intensified competition between the companies. Subscribers are benefitting from reduced internet costs,” Victoria Atieno, who works in Nairobi, said on Tuesday.

The social worker noted that internet is a basic right therefore its costs must drop further to make it more affordable.

“I work for a small non-governmental organization. Until recently, not everyone in the office had free internet access. But with the costs coming down, they have installed internet and even bought us modem,” said Atieno, who also accesses internet mostly on her mobile phone.

CCK notes competition between the mobile phone companies has led to rise in the number of internet users in the East African nation. As at December 2011, the regulator’s data shows there were a total of 6.15 million internet subscriptions in Kenya, which represented an increase of 13.20 percent.

Most of the internet subscriptions are on mobile phones through GPRS/EDGE and 3G. Mobile internet subscriptions stood at 6.07 million as at that period with the numbers having risen from 5.37 million. The institution estimates that over 17.38 million Kenyans use the internet.

The rise in the number of internet users is attributed to intensified adoption and use of social media especially on mobile phones. (Xinhua)

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