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Kenya’s Mobile & Internet, by the Numbers (Q4 2010)

If you’ve been wondering what the numbers look like for Kenya’s mobile and ISP space, look no further than the latest CCK Report (Communications Commission of Kenya). It’s one of the best documents that I’ve seen, compiling information that you just can’t seem to find anywhere else.

Highlights of Q4 2010:

  • There are 22 million mobile subscribers in Kenya
  • 9.5% mobile subscriptions growth, which is increasing over the previous quarters
  • 6.63 billion minutes of local calls were made on the mobile networks
  • 740 million text messages were sent
  • Prepaid accounts for 99% of the total mobile subscriptions
  • The number of internet users was estimated at 8.69 million
  • The number of internet/data subscriptions is 3.2 million
  • Broadband subscriptions increased from 18,626 subscribers in the previous quarter to 84,726

Price Wars

Everyone recognizes the impact on SMS and voice, due to the price wars brought on by Airtel last year. The average, people are paying 2.65 Ksh per minute for voice representing 33.4%
reduction on pre-paid tariffs. It comes as no surprise that there was a 68.4% increase in traffic during this period, nearly triple the norm.

There’s nothing like a chart to bring this point home:

Interestingly, a decline in total number of text messages sent (4% less) was recorded. It’s an indicator that given the choice of lower cost voice, people would rather use that, and they do.

Safaricom lost 4.8% market share, from 80.1% to 75.9% (still massive). Surprisingly, it wasn’t Airtel who benefitied, as Orange made up for most of that with a 4.4% increase of their own. Airtel did lead the market by recording 1,143,353 new subscriptions, about 3x their closest competitor.

Internet

A whopping 99% of the internet traffic in Kenya is done via mobile operators, meaning 3G, Edge or GPRS. It’s to Safaricom’s credit that they moved on this early, not dithering around on data as their competition did, effectively taking the whole market.

My theory is that there are only two major players in the ISP space in Kenya. The first is Safaricom, supported by this report, who will own most of the country due to having an island strategy (mobile towers). This allows them to own all the rural areas and anyone who needs decent speeds and has to be mobile.

The other is the fiber bandwidth provider (ISP) who figures out and cracks the consumer market. The closest to doing this is Zuku (Wananchi) who started rolling out 8Mb/s high-speed fiber-to-the-home internet connections in Q4 2010 at only 3,499 Ksh ($45). These numbers aren’t reflected yet. My guess is that we’ll see Zuku tying up all the home internet connections in the major urban areas.

Estimates for those with internet access in Kenya is closing in on 9 million users, and at over 22% of the population, we can say we’re getting a lot closer to the critical mass needed for real web businesses and services to thrive.

Final Thoughts

Overall, the numbers on both mobile and internet are trending up, and at a very favorable rate. The indicators here prove that you should be paying a lot of attention to mobiles and data connectivity in Kenya.

If you’re a business, what’s your mobile plan? How are you providing and extending your services over the internet (and no, a website is not enough)?

If you’re an entrepreneur, how are you going to use this information to decide what to build? Are you paying attention to the wananchi, building apps for the upper class?

PDF of Report: CCK Report download – Kenya Q4 2010

10 Great Reads Around Africa

Nigerian Banking Survey

Jeremy has a quick rundown of some numbers, such as:

“53% of Nigerian adults have access to a mobile phone, yet 74% of the adult population has never been banked”

(Full report: 7.3Mb PDF)

Vodacom South Africa’s Mobikasi

Vincent breaks out with his first new tech release since moving to Vodacom, it’s a location-based mobile phone accessible documentary on Soweto in South Africa.

“The location-based documentary looks at people, music, fashion, social issues and places of interest. Instead of showing the twenty-five minute documentary in a linear fashion from start to finish, Mobikasi splits the content up into twenty-five inserts of one minute each.”

Nominating Peace Heroes in Kenya

Unsung Peace Heroes in Kenya

The Ushahidi Engine is being used to run a new non-disaster related site called Peace Heroes, which hopes to highlight ordinary Kenyans who did extraordinary things to promote peace during and after the post-election crisis earlier this year.

Thoughts on a web cloud for Africa

“While all the pieces had been floating around in my head for a while I am just now understanding that we really need to drag very little out to Africa for them to have incredibly powerful technology in the palm of their hand (and that such thinking is inherently poisonous) and that we are better off attempting to facilitate the connection of their handsets to The Cloud in order to assist with effecting positive social change.”

O3b’s first internet package

The O3b Network is offering it’s first bundle. “Quick Start Africa” is a, Carrier Managed Service designed for Telcos and ISPs on the African continent who need a high capacity, ultra low latency, carrier class IP trunking solution.

“Life is Hard”

Niti Bhan talked about this at the Better World by Design conference. Breaking down why life is so difficult for the poorest people in the world and what can be done when trying to address these issues.

Facebook Garage in Uganda

Jon Gosier of Appfrica.net is heading up a Facebook Garage in Kampala on December 13. It’s a great chance for programmers to get out and get comfortable with the Facebook platform, and also to meet some of the devs. Get more info at the Facebook event page, and the Appfrica wiki.

Mobile finance – indigenous, ingenious, or both?

A must-read post by Ken Banks. “It’s not that people don’t understand banking concepts, it’s just that for them things go by a different name.”

A GPS in every SIM card

Talk about a game changer:

“…a highly accurate GPS receiver and an antenna into the SIM card, enabling network providers to deploy both legally-mandated and commercial applications for all mobile phones, with no need for software or hardware changes.”

Uganda-Congo border images


Congo-Uganda border picture by Glenna Gordon

Glenna Gordon writes a blog out of Uganda called Scarlett Lion, besides great insights, she also has some of the most amazing photography I’ve seen from there in a while. Check out here professional website to see more.

Africa’s Internet Exchange Points (Map)

Last week I talked about Google’s Global Cache, and how they will be housing this new project at Internet Exchange Points (IXP). A quote from Wikipedia’s definition explains the importance of IXPs best.

“The primary purpose of an IXP is to allow networks to interconnect directly, via the exchange, rather than through one or more 3rd party networks. The advantages of the direct interconnection are numerous, but the primary reasons are cost, latency, and bandwidth. Traffic passing through an exchange is typically not billed by any party, whereas traffic to an ISP’s upstream provider is.”

There are 18 IXPs in Africa in 15 countries (I stated 17 last week). A map of those countries is below (click on it to be taken to the interactive version):

Most of these are found in the capital of the country, but not always. For instance, iBiX is located in Ibadan, Nigeria not Abuja and Tanzania has two IXPs, one in Arusha and one in Dar es Salaam.

In list form, they are:

  • Angola: IXP-ang
  • Botswana: BINX
  • Cote D’Ivoire: CI-IXP
  • Dem. Rep. of Congo: KINIX
  • Egypt: CR-IX and GPX
  • Ghana: GIX
  • Kenya: KIXP
  • Nigeria: iBiX
  • Mozambique: Moz-ix
  • Rwanda: RINEX
  • South Africa: JINX and GINX
  • Swaziland: SZIXP
  • Tanzania: TIX and AIXP
  • Uganda: UiXP
  • Zimbabwe: ZINX

There seems to be a definite advantage to having an IXP located in your country. Why then do so many African countries not have one? From my understanding, it isn’t cost prohibitive to create an IXP or to maintain it. Why would so many African nations, who all have local ISPs, not have a local IXP?

[Update: Michuki Mwangi, one of the godfather’s of Kenyan tech (I believe he’s responsible for getting Kenya’s TLD: yourdomain.co.ke), responded with the following answers to my question.]

“Most of the reasons that countries dont have IXPs are non-technical and are either policy or politics. For instance in Senegal, Sonatel the Senegalese Telco operates in a monopolistic environment. There are almost no ISPs that exist there and those that do just resell ADSL links for the telco. In such a case, they own no infrastructure or services outside what the telco provides. Therefore, there’s been no need/demand for such. A similar case exists in Ethiopia.

In other countries like Nigeria, its getting the players to agree and look beyond the mistrust and competitive advantages that others have to form one. That takes a while.

In other countries its purely a regulatory policy issue that does not permit the existence of an IXP – its as a way of protecting the incumbent telco’s.”

If you are interested in finding out more about Africa’s IXPs, here are some resources:

AfrISPA – African Internet Server Provider Association
AfNOG – African Network Operators Group
EP.net – Africa – List of African IXPs with links
Packet Clearing House (PCH) – for information, statistics and locations
AfriNIC – African Internet Numbers Registry IP Addresses (IPv6)

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