The Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) and the ICT Authority (ICTA) are planning to roll out 100,000 kilometres of last-mile fibre optic cable in the country’s 19 remote counties to increase affordable access to broadband internet.
The project is expected to take three years and will cost the country Ksh5 billion ($37 million), which will be sourced from the Universal Service Fund, the state’s kitty which utilises CA licence fees and grants to support access to ICT services in the country.
According to a statement by CA, the project is primarily targeting underserved arid and semi-arid lands (ASALs) in the northern, eastern and coastal regions of the country, where access to broadband is particularly low and poverty levels are relatively high.
CA Director-General Ezra Chiloba said the project is phenomenal and will greatly transform the country in years to come.
However, the project may disrupt plans by American satellite internet company Starlink, a subsidiary of Elon Musk’s SpaceX company, which is seeking to set up shop in Kenya by June this year, primarily eyeing the unserved populations in remote areas.
Starlink is awaiting regulatory approval from CA and other regulators to begin offering its services in the country. Experts say its entry could ‘revolutionise’ internet access in the region’s remote areas, which are not commercially attractive to private internet service providers (ISPs).
CA’s move to deploy fibre optic cable in Kenya’s ASALs is set to improve access to cheap broadband internet in the underserved and unserved regions, slashing Starlink’s target market.
Currently, only 9.8 million Kenyans (9 percent), mostly living in urban and semi-urban areas have access to broadband internet. Thirty eight percent have low-speed dial-up internet, while up to 22 million people still have no access to internet connectivity.
Access to high-speed internet is relatively lower in other countries in the region. In Tanzania, only 6.7 million (11.8 percent) people have access, while in Uganda there are just about 1.7 million people (3.7 percent).
In Rwanda, only 0.9 million people have access to high-speed internet, Burundi 100,000, South Sudan 30,000 and there are 70,000 (less than 1 percent) people in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with access to broadband internet.