British communications firm set up shop in Nairobi

By Macharia Kamau

A British Internet service provider has set up shop in Kenya with expectations to tap into the growing Internet usage in the country.

Avanti Communications is also eyeing the rest of Africa and recently started an operation in South Africa and plans to set up in Nigeria.

The firm is planning to sell wholesale satellite broadband capacity to large companies and Internet Service Providers (ISP)(but also said it had a special package for small ISPs – especially start ups – that it said would eliminate the need for heavy investments among the small players.

 Heavy capital expenditure has in the past been cited as among the entry barriers for ISPs as well as a hindrance for the existing ones to expand their service provision.

This has seen slow growth in the number of broadband connections in the country that are mostly limited to commercial premises. Internet usage in the country is mostly through mobile phones.

Avanti also expects its focus on Africa to turn around its fortunes. It has been making losses and in the financial year to June 30, it made a pre-tax loss of £16 million though its revenues doubled from £6.1m to £15m.

“Three quarters of our capital investments have been dedicated to Africa. The continent is our number one priority region,” said David Williams, chief executive Avanti Communications.

 “So far we have offices in Nairobi and Johannesburg and we are planning to open one in Nigeria. In the countries where we already have offices, we are using local talent to run our operations, which is an approach we will take in every country we set up.” The firm in August launched a satellite into space that Williams said was mostly dedicated to Africa and Middle East.