Safaricom and Airtel join forces to hedge fibre installation cost

In one of the rarest partnerships among stiff competitors, Kenya’s Safaricom and Airtel are set to lay a multi-million shilling fiber network, in a bid to reduce expenses incurred in paying third party companies for wholesale internet.

Safaricom’s Chief Executive Bob Collymore told Business Daily, “We are going to roll out the fibre in the coming financial year. It will involve partnering with other mobile operators.”

Currently, Safaricom relies on Jamii Telecoms Limited (JTL), AccessKenya and Kenya Data Networks (KDN) for their wholesale Internet. However, with the declining revenue from Voice, the companies have had no choice but to try finding other avenues for making profits.

Safaricom and Airtel have a long standing Tower Sharing Agreement. The two companies have similar agreements with Telkom Kenya and Essar.

According to Collymore, collaborating in fibre optic network deployment is an extension of the agreement and set to ensure operators minimize costs while avoiding duplication.

Kenya has experienced a sudden increase in the demand for data services, and Safaricom intends to maximize on this — owing to the number of Internet-enabled devices like mobile phones and tablet computers.

According to Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) statistics, the number of internet users in Kenya rose 95.6 percent year-on-year to 17.4 million on the last quarter of 2011.

Mobile phones are the main means of accessing the internet, and the mobile service providers have been in a stiff competition to offer the fastest connection speeds.

Airtel recently launched their 3.75G network, terming it as the fastest in the region. However, Safaricom is already testing their 4G network.

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