Kenyan ISP Wananchi Online has signed a contract with US technology solutions firm Cisco to rollout triple-play services across nine countries in East Africa. The deal is supported by East Africa Capital Partners and Cisco Capital, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Cisco. Wananchi Online, which claims to be the only triple-play operator in East Africa intends to tap into markets in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Malawi, Ethiopia, Sudan and Zambia. The contract will see Wananchi Online deploying Cisco’s integrated end-to-end network technology solutions – encompassing its ‘Borderless Networks’ and collaboration and data centre virtualization solutions.
Wananchi intends to extend a backhaul and last-mile fibre network across Nairobi and Mombasa in Kenya and Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. It will also build a WiMAX wireless network to provide uncapped internet access in smaller urban centres in Kenya. The company will supplement its WiMAX and fibre offerings with VSAT services for small and medium businesses, particularly in remote locations in East Africa. Its long-term plan is to take fibre to the smallest towns in the region. East Africa Capital Partners’ Richard Bell has admitted that Wananchi is keen to develop a network in South Africa too, but: ‘South Africa is still a very closed and regulated market. East Africa has leapfrogged ahead of South Africa. If we could get a licence to build a cable network in South Africa, we’d be there in a second.’
Mark Schneider, chairman of the Wananchi Group commented: ‘The entertainment market for both home and corporate customers in Africa as a whole continues to be reshaped in light of technological advancements and new industry partnerships. The Wananchi Group’s key objective is to expand our portfolio and enhance our commercial proposition, revenues and reputation. Cisco will help us to continuously deliver the necessary technology enhancements to our infrastructure to serve our ever-growing customer needs and remain at the forefront of delivering new and innovative services to our customers.’ Executives at Wananchi and Cisco said that the cost of international bandwidth in the region is now as cheap as it is anywhere in the world – thanks to the recent launches of EASSY, SEACOM and TEAMS submarine cables – making this type of increased investment possible.