After being active in Kenya for the past three years championing the use of the Internet through laying its 5,000Km fiber optic network in the country and connecting forty Counties in the process, Liquid Telecom Kenya earlier last year (March) partnered with the Nakuru County Government to take on a ground breaking initiative which saw the design and launch of a high capacity Wi-Fi network that covers a 10-kilometre radius from the central business district (CBD).
The project, a first of its kind in Kenya, saw Nakuru join Kigali in Rwanda and Tshwane in South Africa as one of the first major urban centers in Africa to enjoy access to free public Wi-Fi.
“Our biggest project so far is the Nakuru free WIFI, but if I have to say we have really worked hard to build a network like no other, not just in Kenya but in Africa, and it’s a network that delivers benefits to everyone across, from the largest corporate to the smallest man on the street,” said Mr. William Oungo, Head of Government Affairs, Liquid Telecom Kenya, during an interview with CIO East Africa.
Currently, the Nakuru County network is connected to a 200 Megabytes per second (Mbps) pool that is upgradable to 1Gbps based on demand, which Liquid Telecom will be monitoring and upgrading as the need arises. With 51 nodes installed, the network will serve users in the streets and open public areas such as stadia and parks. Academic institutions in Nakuru will also enjoy free Wi-Fi access.
“With the uptake of e-learning by various colleges and universities in Kenya and the wealth of knowledge available online, Internet access in academic institutions has fast become a defining factor in the quality of education that students receive,” said Ben Roberts during the Nakuru Wi-Fi project launch.
Liquid Telecom invested $400,000 (Kshs 35,600,000) in the Nakuru Wi-Fi project, with more set to be invested during network optimization exercises. During the annual AfricaCom awards in Cape Town, Liquid Telecom picked up the award in the ‘Changing Lives’ category for the Nakuru project. Mr. Oungo said that due to the success of the Nakuru Wi-Fi, Liquid currently has a project which will help connect other Counties to the free Wi-Fi.
“We have partnered with the Office of the President and County governments to build Fibre optic in the Counties metropolitans and to bring free Wi-Fi projects to Laikipia, Embu, Kisumu, Meru, Nyeri, Elgeyo Marakwet, Eldoret, Kirinyaga and Uasin Gishu,” said Mr. Oungo. “We will also be combining the implementation of fibre, WiFi and lampposts in at least 3 metropolitans before the end of December 2016,” He added.
Mr. Oungo said that Liquid’s drive to achieve a five-fold expansion in public WiFi over the next year is set to help expand Kenya’s Internet access further, from the current 52.3 per cent of the population reported by the Communications Authority of Kenya. Liquid Telecoms general investment in Kenya has taken its network in to 40 counties, with a plan to grow coverage to all 47 counties by the end of 2016.
“In terms of our network presence we have connected 40 counties but it is going to be 41 if you include Uasin gishu which is now in the process of being connected. The process should take three months, so by June we should be done.” Mr. Oungo said.