James Momanyi @jamomanyi
The Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) has said it requires Sh250 billion to connect the entire country to broadband.
The Universal Service Fund has so far been able to collect Sh7.1 billion. CA intends to set aside Sh11.5 billion from the USF to roll out the provision of high-speed internet connectivity to public secondary schools and voice infrastructure project for mobile services across the country in the next five years.
Yesterday, CA board chairman Ngene Gituku told stakeholders that the fund has so far collected Sh7.1 billion to kick-start the implementation of the two projects that are currently underway and that are expected to be complete in the 2022/2023 financial year.
“The budget envisaged to close the initial voice and service gaps is estimated at Sh11.5 billion. Closing all the identified voice connectivity gaps in their entirety requires in excess of Sh75 billion, while connecting the entire country to broadband would require more than Sh250 billion. Clearly, the resources available through the mechanism of the USF are, therefore, inadequate,” said Gituku.
CA director general Francis Wangusi said that the authority sought to address the two areas in response to the recommendations of the Access Gaps Study carried out in 2016.
The study found out that 5.6 per cent of the population, which translates to about 2.66 million people, had no access to telecommunication services. Further, about 418 sub-locations had less than half of their population covered by communications services while another 164 sub-locations had no access to 2G mobile services.
In addition, the study established that 3G and broadband services were limited to urban areas. Only 2,454 sublocations had 100 per cent 3G population coverage and broadband while 1,244 sublocations had no access to this service.
“The two projects identified for the initial phase were the Voice Infrastructure Project for mobile services in selected sublocations and the Education Broadband Connectivity Projects geared towards providing high-speed internet connectivity to public secondary schools in the country,” said Wangusi.
Already the authority has completed the implementation of the Education Broadband Connectivity Project, which targets to provide broadband connectivity to 896 public secondary schools across the 47 counties in Kenya with 882 schools or 99.2 per cent having been connected to date. The Education Broadband Connectivity Project will ultimately provide connectivity to all the 9,942 secondary schools in Kenya and some selected tertiary institutions. In the current and next financial year, the authority has budgeted to spend Sh4.67 billion of the Sh7.1 billion already in their account to connect broadband to schools and provide voice infrastructure to various sublocations across the country.
The voice infrastructure and services projects have been awarded to two Network Facility Provider Tier 1 operators, namely Safaricom Plc and Telkom Kenya Ltd. A total of 34 Lots were awarded through a competitive tender process in the current financial year, covering 78 sub-locations of which 24 lots were awarded to Safaricom PLC and 10 lots to Telkom Kenya Ltd.
Safaricom has to date completed site construction in 24 sublocations out of the expected 50 sublocations. However, Telkom Kenya has had some challenges in meeting its USF contractual obligations, and has requested for variation of milestones.