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Kenyans enjoy low internet tariffs

19 March 2013, 17:30 Bedah Mengo

Nairobi - Kenyans are enjoying cheaper internet access as competition for the data market among telecoms in the East African nation intensifies.

The battle for the data market has seen telecoms namely Safaricom, Airtel, Orange, Yu, Jamii Telecom, Wananchi and Access Kenya, among others, come up with various products that are making Kenyans access internet at affordable rates both on their mobile phones and computers.

While some of the companies have unlimited internet tariffs where one goes online for a specific period after paying a certain amount, others have bundles where users can access internet as low as 0.01 U.S. dollars (approx. KES 0.50) per megabyte (MB).

Others offer post pay tariffs at very affordable rates especially for corporate clients.

The products have thus enabled Kenyans to download movies, upload photos and videos on various sites, chat all day on Facebook and Twitter and work online, among other benefits that come with affordable internet.

Ken Ngutu is among Kenyans who are benefiting from cheaper internet access in the East African nation.

Ngutu, who works as a web and graphic designer in the capital Nairobi, is a heavy internet user.

"I cannot work without the internet. Most of my business I transact through the internet, where I get ideas, meet my customers, send them work and test websites that I have designed to ensure they are functional," Ngutu, who is self-employed, told Xinhua on Saturday.

The 29-year old, who mainly works from home, has subscribed to an internet tariff from one of the telecoms in Kenya where he pays 17 dollars (approx. KES 1 500) per month.

"Once you pay the amount, you are given unlimited internet access, though one cannot surpass 500MB per day, which is fine with me since I have trained myself not to exceed that," he said.

With the package, Ngutu said he is able to do all that he wants on the internet.

"The tariff is prepaid. Each month, therefore, I ensure that I have paid the 17 dollars so that I am not blocked from accessing the internet," he said.

Ngutu has used the tariff for about one- and-a-half years and he is full of praise of the company.

"I find the tariff affordable and convenient if I look at what I do on the internet. If I compare with what I earn from my work, I cannot complain about the internet charges. They are very fair," he said.

Before switching to the company, Ngutu said he used to work from a cybercafe in the city center and sometimes through a modem.

"I would work from home offline and go to town and upload my designs on the internet from the cybercafe. The owner used to charge me 0.58 dollars per hour. Most of the time I would stay there for over four hours," he said.

If he compares what he used to pay at the cybercafé and on modem and what he is paying currently to the telecom, he blames himself for not opening his eyes sooner.

"I stopped going to the cybercafé late 2011. It cost me 93 dollars to get connected to my new service provider but since then I have saved a lot," he said.

Ngutu noted that internet access in Kenya has dropped over the years, making it affordable for many people.

"I believe this is because of the arrival of the fiber optic cable, which increased internet speed and availability. Competition has also increased, bringing the cost down," he said.

The cost of accessing internet on mobile phones and through modems is also lower.

Unlike in the past where subscribers would pay for internet costs per minute as it is with call rates, telecoms introduced per MB and data bundles charges.

The companies offer packages for their mobile phone, modem and corporate clients.

"The packages are good. They have made internet access affordable. Some of the companies have even made it easier for us who chat all day on Facebook by having internet tariffs targeting social network users," said university student George Otieno.

The low charges have spread internet use in Kenya, with the East African nation having over 8.5 million subscribers.

Three quarters of internet users in the country access the service on their mobile phones, according to Communication Commission of Kenya (CCK).

Kenya's internet users rose by 10 percent to reach 13.5 million from 12.1 million in the period July to September 2012.

"This rise is attributed to increased demand for internet and data services, including use of social media especially among the youthful population. Competitive tariffs by the mobile operators, and aggressive promotional and special offers were also behind the increase in the number of internet users," said CCK in the report released in January.

- Xinhua


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