Kenya: KDN Announces Sh2.8 Billion Cables Upgrade


Kenya Data Networks plans to spend Sh2.8 billion over the next three years to overhaul its fibre network to help reduce service outages for its large-scale clients. Faced with a growing number of network cuts, KDN says the step and the creation of a repair team would improve services.

"Part of the upgrade includes the latest technology to improve the self-healing capability of the fibre network. This has been necessitated by the high number of sabotage and construction related cuts we experience daily," said Bob Lafite, KDN chief technical officer.

With a single fibre cut said to cost the Kenyan economy over Sh1 million in lost communication between offices, banks and consumers, KDN said it was investing in experts in cable installation, operation and maintenance to support the upgrade. In a statement, KDN said it would review its cabling to ensure proper routing and splicing.

Two years ago, a spate of fibre cuts crippled the operations of network operators, forcing the sector to implement costly security measures and inspiring court cases. A section of operators have asked the government to punish such criminals with life sentence, saying such interruptions were comparable to tampering with a national resource.

"Fibre is a natural resource and must be treated as such. We need heftier sentences against those who are caught cutting or trading in fibre," said Bob Collymore, Safaricom CEO.

KDN has contracted Israel-based ECI Telecom, a global provider of network infrastructure, to upgrade its network, signing a Sh320 million contract that will see the company install fibre rings, that will ensure continuity and redundancy on all KDN networks. In September last year, the firm announced it would be pulling out of the retail Internet market to focus on wholesale business through infrastructure-building.

The firm has signed up Airtel Kenya in a five-year deal to use KDN's fibre to enhance its service offering. Replicating a tie-up between Safaricom and Jamii Telecom, Airtel will connect its base stations to KDN's fibre so that it can offer high speed mobile Internet access, mobile video conferencing and videophone, among other services which it cannot provide with its current 2.5G system.

"This network upgrade, which is part of a larger Sh2.8 billion ($35m) programme, has been put in place to ensure that our customers receive the quality of service that they are entitled to. We have seen an increase in fibre cuts and break downs in the past few months," said Rikus Matthyser, KDN chief executive officer.

Once the upgrade is complete, says the firm, the network will have more capacity, resilience and flexibility that will incorporate user-friendly line switching and route selection so as to enable seamless data transmission. The upgrade is expected to last for three years and should result in better network security and response times to fibre cuts.