23 August 2005

Kenya: Firm to Start New Wireless Telephones

Nairobi — A US-based Kenyan firm will spend Sh150 million in the next six months to provide broadband Internet and telephones services through Voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP) - that is, wireless telephone services through Internet.

Chief executive Peter Mwangi Maina says Geonet will complete the first phase by December to begin services within a 60-kilometres radius of Nairobi and Mombasa at Sh113 million.

Its Nairobi offices at Rahimtullah Towers, Ngong Road, and its headquarters in Edison, New Jersey, it is one of 15 firms the Communication Commission of Kenya has licensed this year.

About 70 per cent of the Sh150 million start-up capital was raised by Kenyans working in New Jersey and the other 30 per cent is owned by Computer Plus, a Manhattan, New York, IT firm.

The second phase will be to build a national data distribution point at Nakuru at $750,000 (Sh56 million). By next March, the firm expects to have spent $2 million (Sh150 million).

By then, says Mr Maina, Geonet hopes to have attained its goal of serving 100,000 customers and employing 1,300 engineers and technicians and 130 administrative employees.

"This gives us a ratio of one administrator for every 10 technical staff, which makes us competitive," says Mr Maina, a former Kenya Wildlife Services employee, who comes from Ndeffo, Nakuru.

Thereafter the firm will seek about Sh750 million from financial institutions to expand the services to the entire country, he says.

"Our goal is to reach 80 per cent of the country but to do this the Government needs to speed up rural electrification in each village," Mr Maina says.

The wireless low-cost high speed broadband Internet and phone services provided through satellite will benefit the private sector and individuals by reducing Internet and phone costs by about 50 per cent, Mr Maina says.

The firm will provide Internet services at 256 kilobytes a second, which is five times faster than is provided by an ordinary phone line.

Mr Maina says organisations and individual consumers will have the Internet on for 24 hours at minimum costs and be able to and have high speed downloading of massive data, such as books, journals, business figures, music, videos and others.

- The writer works at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey

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