Telkom Kenya is banking on cellular technology to help it curb cases of vandalism that costs the parastatal up to Sh450 million in losses each year. The project will see Telkom leapfrog from its ancient anologue system into first-world technology that is also cheaper to maintain in the long run.

It is an ambitious scheme that will see Telkom install wireless CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) lines countrywide by September 2008. No figures were given on the cost of the investment. However, the three-phase project that kicks off in July will see 400,000 wireless lines available countrywide by September next year.

CDMA gives uses simultaneous access to a radio frequency or spectrum over a wide bandwidth and can deliver sound and pictures of television quality. All CDMA users are assigned their own codes, and the capacity of the system is such that one frequency can handle hundreds of calls and data at the same time. Like any cellular system, CDMA divides a geographic region into cells with a mobile unit in each cell communicating with a base station.

The corporation's chief sales and marketing officer, Bernard Rubia, said last week that the maiden phase of the project would kick off in Nairobi, with some 20,000 wireless lines listed for installation. According to the blueprint, the second phase of the project, dubbed "Metro", would then come up in September, and target the coastal town of Mombasa, where 250,000 wireless lines are expected to be installed. Areas left out of the Nairobi programme would also be incorporated in the Metro project phase. Rubia said that an additional 120,000 wireless lines would, however, be installed later next year under a special rural telephony project.

Telkom has also commissioned a survey for an optic fibre communication link between Nairobi and Kisumu, that is set to begin next week. A similar project linking Nairobi to Mombasa is already underway and should be completed by April 30.

The Telkom Kenya official explained that the new wireless communication would also trim costs by allowing customers to send and receive a wide variety of data. "We are greatly driven by the universal urge to reign in vandalism while improving on the traffic of data. The new technology is largely tamper proof and would substantially guarantee businesses their peace of mind away from intermittent interruptions," said Mr Rubia.

He said that the technology would also offer users the option of "portable fixed lines" with both local and international roaming facilities.

"With our new technology, you can move around with your fixed line in a special card, so that you are reachable wherever you go," he said.

The official spoke in Kisumu during a customer sensitisation workshop, that was also attended by the corporation's chief customs relation's manager, Doreen Musau.

Telkom Kenya's regional manager for Nyanza, Mr Johnson Mghalu, said vandalism was still rife in the region with Nyamasaria and Kibos areas leading the pack.

"We need an all round campaign, both among the public and our customers, because the effects of this menace are injurious to us all and something should be done to curb it as soon as possible," he said.

Digitalisation of telephones in Kisumu are complete. Rubia welcomed the liberalisation of the telecommunications sector, saying it had helped improve customer service because users now had several vendors to choose from. "Customers having an array of options stand a chance of getting the best because service providers have to strive to offer the best. This helps even the service provider to improve on efficiency for the good of all," he said.

The Nation