Over 1.6m Kenyans lack access to phone services

Prople making phone calls

Over 1.6 million Kenyans lack access to mobile phone services including voice, messaging and money transfer as network coverage in their locations is missing.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Over 1.6 million Kenyans lack access to mobile phone services including voice, messaging and money transfer as network coverage in their locations is missing.

Data from the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) shows 3.4 per cent of the local population lacked coverage as at June last year, essentially locking them out of communicating and accessing digital services with the outside world.

While Kenya has made significant steps in building mobile network infrastructure to support cellular services across the country over the past seven years, 79 sub-locations mostly located in arid and semi-arid areas are in the dark. While the country has 7,149 sub-locations, only 5,409 of them have 100 per cent grid link, 988 sub-locations have 90 per cent coverage, 477 have between 50 per cent and 90 per cent coverage, while 196 of them have less than 50 per cent mobile network coverage.

“The updated gap analysis revealed that 2G network has attained 96.6 per cent population and 56.5 per cent geographical coverage. The analysis further revealed that 3.4 per cent of the population have zero access to mobile voice communications services,” CA said.

This comes despite the rapid acceleration of the rollout of the fast 4th generation (4G) network in parts of the country by local mobile network operators, who are seeking to cash in on the increased demand of fast interest services, highlighting the telecommunications (telco) inequality gaps in the country.

4G transceivers

Kenya’s top three telcos—Safaricom, Airtel Kenya and Telkom Kenya—have stepped up deployment of 4G transceivers across the country, increasing their number to 41,284 up from 31,914 within a year.

They also increased rollout of 3G transceivers to 103,822 up from 79,847 even as most remote parts of the country continue to grapple with the slow and unreliable 2G or without mobile coverage entirely.

Telco services have sharply risen in importance in recent years due to rapid digitisation, making for ease of access of essential services online.

However, CA has earmarked 12 counties that have poor or no mobile network coverage for rollout of the third phase of the Universal Service Fund (USF).

Mobile money

The multi-phased USF project, formed in 2009 with funding from local telco levies and the government, seeks to speed up access to ICT services in Kenya, such as telecommunication, internet-based services and mobile money.

CA has invited bids for firms to construct communication towers to host base transceiver station equipment and establishment of backhaul transmission links to operators’ Base Station Controllers and the core networks to be built within 24 months.

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