UUNET Kenya, a local business communications provider has finalised plans to launch video conferencing facilities in the country. The intended introduction of the service so far limited to such institutions as World Bank African and Virtual University (AVU) has been made possible with introduction of a new broadband wireless technology - WiMAX.

Uunet Kenya IP Solutions Manager, Peter Mwondi said that the service, which would run on the company's newly installed US$1 million WiMAX infrastructure would be another savings avenue for clients. "They are bound to benefit immensely through reduction on traveling expenses and time for personnel, as well as faster real time communication," he said.

Mwondi explained that most of the Information Technology firms operating in Kenya have been hesitant to introduce the service because of an expensive and unreliable last mile band network - the link between the service provider and clients' office.

He said late last year, the firm introduced a product called On-Net calling on their Uunet Voice service with some corporate clients saving up to Sh1 million. The product, he added, allows free calls within a firm's voice network, between customers and the service provider.

"Just last week, we successfully tested our On-Net calls on the WiMAX network video phones. A client can actually dial a number - the one we give you - and if they have the right videophone, can see each other as they talk," said Mwondi.

He said UUNET Kenya was unable to provide videoconferencing in the past because renting last mile access from a third party was not only costly but could also have compromised on voice and video quality. "Previously, you could not do voice because you needed an earth link. There was also the issue of inadequate bandwidth capacity that prevented the videoconferencing services to be effectively carried out," said Mwondi. But with the 4 MBPS WiMAX network, Uunet Kenya now can provide enough capacity on demand, and the flexibility to focus more on services, rather than infrastructure.

The East African Standard