By Kato Mivule
A British Broadband Internet Service Company launched services in Kampala and will be offering services at a price range of about 73 US Dollars to 750 US Dollars for 64 kb to 512 kb, per month, while offering 3G to 2G services for a prices range of about 140 US Dollars per month. One wonders where Ugandans will get such money to have access to the internet.
This is outrageous and any Ugandan who loves free flow of information will no doubt see this as a ‘gate keeping ‘process in which some ‘elite’ western companies seek to place impediments before Africans as they endeavor to access information on the web. This will not only stifle the free flow of developmental information to millions of Africans but will act as a setback to I.T development in Uganda.
Ugandan Government and especially the Ministry of Information Technology should come out and set prices controls for the interest of Ugandans and not some companies looking for a ‘kill’ in Africa. Such outrageous prices for internet services are higher than in some Western Nations… Take for instance, with the same Broadband infrastructure, the USA offers relatively lower prices than what the “New” British company is offering in Uganda.
The interview and Press Report of this “new” ISP Company in Uganda made it sound like they will offer cheap prices yet the facts are the “new” ISP Company will offer very unaffordable prices for their services. Uganda’s Government invested in infrastructure for High-speed Internet by laying hundreds of miles of Fiber Optic Cable, Ugandans should hold the ICT ministry accountable to stop the outrageous prices hikes.
It would not be a surprise that even with the latest High-speed Fiber Optic Broadband infrastructure in Uganda, Prices might continue to widen the Digital Divide in Africa.
Below is the interview that the CEO did with a local Ugandan daily on the launching of his company in Uganda…
Business Power | July 14, 2009
Broadband for good speed, customer care
Broadband Company, a new internet service provider and subsidiary of PME Infrastructure, a London-based firm, unveiled its services in Uganda last week. Walter Wafula interviewed Mr Arvid Knutsen the managing director about the company’s strategy.
What drew the Broadband Company to Uganda?
Broadband Company is owned primarily by PME Infrastructure, which is a United Kingdom- based Fund. They have explored and checked out the market in East Africa, and in that process, several countries have been evaluated and many projects have been considered. The conclusion has been that Uganda has good market possibilities in the broadband area. The market drew us to Uganda.
What is broadband because many Ugandans don’t know what it is?
I suppose most people know what internet connection is. You can have fast or slow internet, low or high capacity internet. The definition of broadband can be internet connection with good, fast, and sufficient capacity to make a user happy, as a working tool in a job or private use.
The speed of bandwidth or internet offers here are very slow compared to other markets.
Consumers are hungry for fast and high capacity broadband what is the state of your service?
If you were at our media launch you can tell how good the speeds are. That is what we consider a broadband solution. People must try it out and see what we offer. However, we can deliver any capacity or speed on our lines whether you are a private or corporate customer. Our technology allows us to deliver any speed.
Can you break it down into figures?
Normally, the broadband solutions start at 128kilobits or 256kilobits (Kb) per second. We can deliver below that but we have preferred to start at 128kilobits. The company currently offers up-to 512 kilobits but plans to provide 2,045 kilobits. The 128Kb costs Shs147,000 when shared and Shs483,000 for a single user.
And what have you done to ensure that you sustain the fast speeds and high capacity, no matter how many clients subscribe to your service?
We are a specialised broadband operator. We only deal with internet and broadband. We don’t mix with voice or with other solutions. Our WiMAX technology enables us to monitor, control and send whatever we do for our customers and we are producing our services ourselves. We have our own satellite gateway and ISP platform, so we control our value chain. This guarantees that customers will get what they are paying for.
Your company’s vision is “to serve customers beyond their expectations.” Many firms have come up with almost similar taglines but delivered below expectations in the end. How will you do it?
More than you expect, does not only refer to the speed. It also refers to the way we are going to treat and handle our services. We are going to provide the best customer service we can.
When I compare your pricing to that of other players, I notice a slight reduction in rates. Shall we see the rates go further down with the launch of the submarine cables?
We are not a high price company. We are in the middle, we try to be affordable and I think the market deserves some competition on the pricing side. Yes, you will definitely see a downward trend on the prices.
How soon will this be?
I am not quite sure if we will see any effect this year. May be late this year but I assume we will see considerable reduction in the prices of broadband next year.
Do you intend to deliver mobile phone call services similar to what is offered by GSM operators like Zain and MTN?
We are strictly a broadband service provider but we are also providing the Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service, which has limitations compared to GSM. However, it has huge advantages if deployed correctly and it is extremely cheap – I don’t want to mention prices right now but I can be a fraction of Shs50.
Business | July 9, 2009
Broadband firm to offer cheaper internet
Walter Wafula | Kampala
The BroadBand Company, a new Internet Service Provider, is expected to unveil its services to Ugandans at prices lower than what most of the current players in the market are offering this Friday.
According to the Managing Director, Arvid Knutsen, the Kampala-based firm will be formally launched by the Vice President Gilbert Bukenya at the Kampala Serena Hotel tomorrow.
The firm will start off its services by offering internet at speeds between 64 Kilobits (Kb) per second and 512Kb per second at between Shs147, 000 and Shs1.5 million per month on its shared packages. For internet that is not shared with other users, the prices range between Shs483, 000 and Shs3.4 million. For individual use, the firm will offer the 3G portable modems with internet at Shs283,500 compared to the average of Shs320,000 offered by other service providers with the exception of Warid Telecom, which offers 2G devices at about Shs240,000. The cost of accessing the internet and voice services is expected to drop further this year, with the launch of the three submarine cables that are under construction from the coast of Mombasa in Kenya.
Speaking at the media launch held at T1 Club, Mr Knutsen said the Broadband Company is the first Internet provider in Uganda to offer services under the latest wireless internet platform called WIMAX E going beyond the current offerings of WiMAX.
“This ensures a faster and more reliable connection and ultimately a more satisfactory Internet surfing experience for our customers,” he said, adding that the company is committed to giving customers “more than what they expect”.
“BroadBand Company will be taking you into a world of increased accessibility and endless possibilities,” he told the press on Tuesday.
BroadBand Company, which was licensed by the Uganda Communications Commission over a year ago, operates under mother company TMP Uganda Ltd, whose majority shareholder is PME Investment Fund, a London based company. The other shareholders are TMP Management, a Norway based company, and a local consortium, Suubi Services Uganda Limited.
Currently, the company’s services are only in Kampala. The company is, however, rolling out its infrastructure to the districts of Jinja and Entebbe. Mr Knusten said their services will be available in the districts in the coming months. According to Mr Knutsen, the company also plans to introduce Voice Over IP service, which will reduce the cost of making calls, as well as offer IP video conferencing, Data Warehousing, Domain Name servicing and more.