Safaricom, Kenya’s largest mobile operator in terms of subscribers, has announced plans to roll out its own independent fibre-optic network, in a bid to secure a larger share of the data market, and reduce its reliance on the voice market. The move will see the operator following in the footsteps of rival Telkom Kenya which signposted its intention to shift strategic focus in 2010; in March 2011 Telkom’s plan started to bear fruit, when it launched fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) broadband services in Muthaiga and Parklands, two of Nairobi’s most affluent suburbs. Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore told Business Daily Africa: ‘This is in support of our strategic direction to be the regional leader in broadband provision; the new direction will give us greater control of the quality of service offered to our customers’. The cellco has now started its search for company to build and maintain the inland network, which is expected to cost in the region of KES1 billion (USD10.22 million).

Whilst the bulk of its broadband coverage is provided by WiMAX connectivity, in February 2010 – alongside rival telcos Jamii Telecom Ltd (JTL) and Wananchi Online – Safaricom activated a fibre-optic link between Nairobi and Mombasa, using infrastructure leased from the Kenya Power and Lighting Company (KPLC). Safaricom signed up for a pair of the fibres in a 20-year lease on the Nairobi-Mombasa line for KES288 million.