Kenya Power in smart poles plans for internet supply

Kenya Power personnel

Kenya Power personnel from the Live Line Team attend to a power issue at Pandya Hospital on November 10, 2022. Kenya Power is piloting special utility poles to supply high-speed internet as part of plans to diversify its revenue.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Kenya Power is piloting special utility poles to supply high-speed internet as part of plans to diversify its revenue.

The utility firm will install the smart poles within its vast overhead network, which telecommunication service providers will lease to mount their wireless transmission equipment.

The pilot project is currently being undertaken in partnership with Safaricom at six locations within Nairobi.

Kenya Power Managing Director Joseph Siror said the smart poles will enable telcos to expand their coverage at a time demand for internet connectivity has shot up due to digitization of many services.

“The smart poles will provide an alternative way to deploy the last mile data networks using wireless technologies, thus providing a solution to telecom service providers to improve data coverage and capacity, as well as address the challenge of signal dropouts,” said Dr Siror.

Dr Siror was speaking on Thursday, June 6 during the opening session of the inaugural Kenya Power Grid Conference.

The forum has brought together engineers to discuss challenges facing the grid and innovative solutions that can be deployed to enhance system efficiency, and the capacity of the grid to adequately serve customers and guarantee better performance for the Company.

“The Company has put in place a strategy that lays a firm foundation for growth in the next century. We will leverage innovative and sustainable solutions to ensure that we have a smart grid in place in order to tap into the new growth frontiers while at the same time offering excellent service to our customers,” he said.

Apart from revenue diversification, the smart poles project and the partnership with the Ministry of ICT will offer valuable lessons for the company in its quest to fully automate the grid.

Kenya Power’s foray into the internet business comes at a time State firms with a vast network across the country are aiming to utilize these networks to provide high-speed internet to cash in on the growing demand for internet services.

The Kenya Pipeline Company (KPC) in April last year launched its fibre optic business and announced that its internet cable would run parallel to its oil pipeline that spreads from Mombasa to Nairobi and other towns such as Eldoret and Kisumu.

The company said the fibre optic cable (FOC) will offer high-speed internet to businesses at a time demand for the service has shot up.

KPC said it would price its internet at $22 (Sh3,062) per kilometer of fibre core and a one-off charge of $200 (Sh27,840) for installation per site. 

“The FOC business was necessitated by the growing need for fast broadband connectivity and the economy which requires a reliable and scalable state-of-the-art communications infrastructure network,” said KPC.

Kenya Power is hoping that the internet business will become a good revenue stream in the future and will be a much-need supplement to its electricity-selling business.

The utility last month issued a profit warning signaling that its profits for the current financial year will be at least 25 per cent lower than the Sh3.5 billion net profit it earned in the year to June 2022.

The firm attributed the diminished performance to a weak shilling which inflated its huge debt servicing and power purchase costs.