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State to spend Sh1.5b to bridge mobile, internet access gaps

By Frankline Sunday | April 6th 2016

The Government is going to spend Sh1.5 billion this year in connecting parts of the country starved of mobile and broadband access.

This follows findings that more than 2.5 million Kenyans have no access to voice services and 55 per cent of the country’s land mass is yet to be covered by 2G mobile signals.

According to findings from a study commissioned by the Communications Authority of Kenya, the gap in voice services has, however, halved in the past five years following significant investment made by telecommunication service providers. But even so, a total of 164 sub-locations, mainly in the North Rift and North Eastern regions of the country, have zero coverage of mobile services and another 414 sub-locations have only less than 50 per cent of the population coverage.

In addition to this, 22 per cent of the country’s population is without 3G coverage services, which covers only 17 per cent of the country’s geographical area. The study also points out that all the 47 counties have access to the country’s main optical fibre routes, but require further connections to reach the population.

The CA says the findings of the study will be used to deploy infrastructure in these under-served areas beginning this year using the universal service fund.

Fund worth

“The contribution to the Universal Service Fund currently stands at Sh3.94 billion out of which the authority has contributed Sh1billion,” explained Ms Catherine Ngahu, chairperson of the USF advisory council. Of this amount, Sh1.5 billion will be spent this year and is expected to cut the voice gaps by half once all the tenders have been awarded and the necessary infrastructure installed.

“We expect the work of developing the tenders for the initial projects to begin immediately so that we can advertise the tenders at the beginning of the next financial year and award tenders by November 2016,” explained Ngahu.

The universal service fund was set up in 2013 to provide financing to establish telecommunications services infrastructure in areas that are underserved by services providers owing to their low commercial viability. The fund also draws its finances from contributions from telecom service providers who are required to remit 0.5 per cent of their gross annual turnover into the fund.

The CA has commissioned Canadian research firm, Intelecon, to conduct an access gaps study to identify areas in need of telecommunication infrastructure.

The study further states that 69 per cent of the country’s population will be covered by digital terrestrial television signals to be supplied by the two licensed signal distributors- KBC’s Signet and the Pan African Group (PANG).

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