14 Nov

Internet in Nairobi: Value for money

Getting an internet connection in Nairobi is not a problem. But getting the right provider, at the right time and the right place is no peanuts. Since we often get questions about it, we thought it would be useful to develop a short survey about internet experiences in Nairobi. Here are the results:

Providers in a nutshell
We've received feedback through our questionnaire (thanks!) about 6 internet service providers: Access Kenya, Africa Online, Faiba, Orange, Safaricom and Zuku.

Faiba (28% have Faiba) and Zuku (48%) seem popular. Both are rather new in the market and focus on internet, tv and phone via optic fibre cable (mind though, that although Faiba sells its services as a three-in-one (internet, tv and voip), this currently (confirmed in August 2013) is NOT the case, it will ONLY provide internet, and if you love to watch TV you will have to get an additional TV provider) -  a true revolution in communication brought to Kenya and the rest of East Africa only a few years ago. Faiba offers services in Karen, Nyari, Runda (and surrounding areas, see figure) and is expanding business to Lavington. Zuku is available in Lavington, Kilimani, Westlands and surroundings, but expanding rapidly as well. Africa Online and Access Kenya are oldies in internet connection services in Kenya. Their packages don't offer high speeds, but they can provide you with reasonable internet access where Faiba and Zuku have not reached yet. Other providers (here Orange and Safaricom) are primarily phone service providers, with an option to get internet access through USB modem. The figure below shows the respondents, where they live, as well as the internet providers they chose.

Cost and speeds
Faiba is the most expensive provider, with currently 15,000 kshs start-up fee, and monthly charges of between 10,000 and 20,000 kshs, for speeds of 10mbps to 20mbps for internet and digital TV.
Access Kenya
is also rather expensive with start-up fee of 7,500-10,000 and a monthly fee of 7,500-10,000, for a speed of 512 kbps - 1 mbps.
Other providers (Orange, Zuku, Safaricom, Africa Online) have a start-up cost of under 5000 kshs, either to install a cable in your house, a dish on top of your house and get you a decoder, or to buy a USB modem.
A prepaid Orange (speed not known) or Safaricom connection (512 kbps - 1 mbps) costs our respondents up to 2,000 kshs per month, but of course that depends on usage. You top up credit with data bundle scratch cards that come in different sizes: e.g. 1,000 kshs for 1.5GB for Safaricom, 750 kshs for 1GB for Orange.
Most of the respondents using Zuku pay under 5,000 kshs per month after installation. Current Zuku internet packages come with TV connection and telephone ("Triple play"), and cost 3,000 (1mbps), 4000 (8mbps) or 10,000 kshs (20mbps).

Experienced speeds and downtime
Clearly Faiba offers high speed internet and in most cases actually gives you the speeds you paid for. 5 respondents confirmed this, 2 are unfortunately experiencing lower speeds. Zuku disappoints: 5 out of 6 respondents are getting a lower than advertised speed. The other providers Safaricom, Africa Online and Access Kenya (excl. Orange, no data) aren't that reliable as well - the experienced speeds are lower than promised.
Downtime (extremely low speeds or zero connection) varies. However, again it seems Faiba, among the providers discussed here, offers best quality: downtime is experienced a couple of times per month, monthly, or, as 2 respondents say, never at all. Half of the Zuku users here have a crappy connection a couple of times per week, but almost as many people say it's only a couple of times or once per month. For the other providers there is not enough information to give an honest opinion on this issue.

Customer care
Faiba clients are happy clients. Most respondents find the package they have very good, if not excellent, and find customer service very helpful.
Despite the seemingly lower quality of Zuku's services, clients still seem to be quite ok with it, although there a a few cases where the package and customer service are thought to be (slightly) disappointing.
For the other providers packages are "so so", as is customer service.

Even if you would be ready to pay, you may simply not be able to get hooked up with Faiba. You have 2 options: go to Faiba (i.e. move), or wait for Faiba to come to you. It's not entirely that simple though...
Overall it can be said that there are plenty of ways to get internet. Where you live does however affect the choices you may have. Still, it is always wise to enquire with neighbours about their experiences with providers, since provider X may be working great 2 blocks away from where you live, but is terrible in your place.
Power outages (very common in some places, rare in other places - again varying a lot over short distances) can cause internet interruption where you make use of a cable or dish and decoder, whereas a USB modem would still work fine while you are working with your laptop battery. So, you could consider having a prepaid USB modem as a back up to use when you are experiencing downtime (any provider), power outages (decoders using power) or bad weather (dish).

Access Kenya
Africa Online

The above is based on information provided by 29 of our customers and friends about services experienced in 2012. It gives information on internet user experiences in areas in Nairobi that are popular by this group of people, and is not necessarily representative for internet use in Nairobi in general with any of the providers mentioned.

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