25 January 2014

Kenya: State Says Plans for 4G Network Still On Course

ICT Authority has said the government was fully committed to fast tracking roll out of planned national fourth generation long term evolution (4G LTE) mobile network contrary to earlier claims by some operators.

Projects manager at the authority Andrew Lewela said the LTE project, to be implemented under a public private partnership framework, was a key focus of the proposed revised ICT master plan.

The draft plan, he said, will be ready next month while the revised plan will be launched by ICT Secretary Fred Matiang'i on April 14 in Mombasa during the sixth edition of the annual Connected Kenya Conference.

The authority has backed the sharing of the LTE infrastructure to significantly cut slash capitalisation and operation costs to network providers and service charges to burgeoning internet users now at over 19 million.

"Some companies want to have their own infrastructure but they stand to reap more from shared access in terms of their capex," Lewela said after opening the Connected Kenya sponsors' forum on Thursday. "But we prefer a market approach in having them invest in shared infrastructure rather than a policy.

Under the proposed joint venture, the government is to provide frequencies, some of which will be freed after migration to digital TV broadcast, while mobile network operators will pump in capital.

Dominant Safaricom was last November reportedly considering pulling out the joint venture project, citing frustrations over the sluggish pace the state has apparently adopted in rolling out the advanced LTE network.

Safricom said the slow process was holding its plans after it completed laying of fibre optic in Nairobi in readiness for the 4G roll out.

Airtel, Telkom's Orange, and Essar Kenya's yuMobile and foreign incorporated MTN Business and Liquid Telecoms had also shown interest.

Essar has also said it was rethinking its earlier strategy of migrating directly from 2G to 4G due to the delays.

Another key highlight of the ICT master plan is full implementation of e-government services that is piloting at the Kenya Revenue Authority and Huduma Centre.

The plan has heavily borrowed from South Korea and Singapore. South Korea on Wednesday announced plans to upgarde its 4G network to 5G at a cost of Sh128.85 billion($1.5 billion) by 2017.

4G network is an improvement to existing 3G standards, providing a mobile ultra-broadband internet access to mobile devices like smart phones and laptops with USB wireless modems.

The advanced network supports mobile web access, high definition mobile TV, cloud computing, video conferencing, voice(calls) over internet(VoIP), among other fast internet connection services.

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