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Kenya: KDN Rebrands to Liquid Telecom Kenya, to Offer Retail Services
Source: CIO East Africa (Nairobi)
Source Date: Saturday, September 14, 2013
Focus: Electronic and Mobile Government
Country: Kenya
Created: Sep 16, 2013

Kenya Data Networks(KDN) will be now known as Liquid Telecom Kenya. The new branding was unveiled Thursday at an event held at the Serena Hotel and attended by Liquid Telecom executives, including: Kenya CEO, Shahab Meshki; Rwandan Chair, Sam Nkusi; Liquid Telecom Zimbabwe Head of Commercial, Martin Mushambadope; and Liquid Telecom Chief Marketing Officer, Tom Tudor. The four explained that the company was now working as a group, with country managers being jointly involved in group operations.

The group has also been sending staff from the Kenyan operation to more established operations with the aim of exchanging knowledge, experience and learning between staff. Liquid is also building an STM 16 network across Africa, and now currently provides connectivity to five undersea cables - WACS, SAT3, TEAMS, EASSY and WIOCC. Shahab explains that connectivity to clients will be routed through the shortest latency, rather than through a specific undersea cable. Multiple landing points and routes has seen Liquid's network providing redundancy in case of a cut on one of the undersea cables. It has also resulted in East Africa's first connection to the Johannesburg Internet Exchange.

Shahab also announced the availability of MPLS across Africa, saying that clients now had the advantage of signing a single contract with a single service level agreement across several countries. He says that the company is looking at keeping traffic between African destinations within Africa.

The Kenyan CEO also announced that following Liquid Telecom's acquisition of Altech's stake in KDN and subsequent investment, the quality of the firm's network and services had improved, leading to a trickling back of clients who had earlier departed amidst declining quality of service.

"Altech wanted to put in money and see returns. A network needs continuous investment and expansion. We have come from a loss position to a sustainable position and we will be profitable over the next 6 months, " he said.

As an example, KDN says it's tier 3 data centre in Nairobi has achieved 100 per uptime in the last 5 months. This is after the company deployed measures, including planning for more reliable power supply with Kenya Power. The company hopes that the growing consumption of data will result in increased capacity at its data centre, where 500 square meters out of a total 2,000 metres squared have been leased.

A meet-me room at the data centre is already operational. Here, any ISP can bring in their cable to connect to the data centre, resulting in a carrier neutral data centre.

The group also announced plans to get back into the retail business in Kenya, with a pilot in a number of residential areas taking place in the next three to six months. Shahab said that the pilot will be done by KDN, rather than ISPs who retail KDN's wholesale offerings. Eventually, Liquid Telecom is looking at probably establishing a separate entity to handle the retail business.

The firm aims at eventually extending fibre down to street level and eventually to manhole level.

A similar strategy of offering both retail and wholesale solutions previously led to mistrust between KDN and client ISPs, resulting in other providers preferring to lay their own fibre. Shahab allayed these fears, pointing to Zimbabwe where Liquid Telecom fully owns a retail subsidiary, Zimbabwe Online(ZOL). Mushambadope says the arrangement has worked quite well there as ZOL purchases services from Liquid Telecom at the same price with competitors, and gets no preferential treatment. The group also announced that Gigabit-capable Passive Optical Network would be rolled out in major cities in its network, starting from Harare in Zimbabwe. Also to be rolled out starting early next year is Internet Protocol TV services, again starting in Zimbabwe. Additional cloud based solutions will also be offered out of the firm's data centre in Nairobi with the help of partners.

Shahab also commented on Internet pricing remaining considerably high, stating that when prices for undersea connectivity were now between $200 and $300, the cost of carrying capacity inland remained high. He attributed this to the cost of additional services and equipment required before final delivery of capacity to an end-user, and on construction work that keeps resulting in fibre cuts. To respond to the numerous fibre cuts, a sizeable number of staff has to be maintained at a cost .

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