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iHub By Jessica Colaço / September 26, 2011

Mobile Broadband in Kenya


The arrival of the undersea fiber cables in Kenya in 2009 has revolutionized the technology and economic sectors. Kenya is one of very few countries in Africa with a comprehensive framework set up in this regard. Average national download speeds have increased from 670.89 kbps in 2009 to 3,806.03 Kbps in 2011. Further, mobile broadband speeds have also drastically increased while cost of Internet access decreased.  Mobile broadband is the ability to access data, voice and video at high speeds over an Internet connection through a portable modem especially a mobile phone. Recently, Safaricom and Orange announced download speeds of up to 21Mbps on their 3G networks .

Network operators such as Safaricom are relying more and more on data to generate massive revenues. According to statistics, mobile broadband providers are making up to 19% of their revenue from mobile data services. It is predicted that mobile broadband can potentially increase national productivity and growth by up to 15%.

Subscribers are now opting to access Internet and other web based services on the go from their cell phones and other portable modems due to the convenience provided by a wide coverage of GSM/3G networks in Kenya. The low bundle rates being offered are also a motivating factor. 1Gb of data cost about Kshs. 2500 last year compared to the current rate (calculated using cheapest combinations) of Kshs. 998.

Innovation is at an all-time high with many local apps for phones being produced and sold on app stores every other day. Social and informative sites like Facebook, Twitter and the blogs are increasingly getting more mobile traffic than desktop traffic while marketing campaigns are slowly being taken to the mobile phone.

It is however disappointing to see the little attention mobile broadband services are being given in terms of research (m-research.) New focus ought to be given to mobile broadband with regards to m-commerce, apps, and other online solutions and more so, on the potential of growth and impact on the country as a whole.

Author : Jessica Colaço

Jessica Colaço is currently the Director of Partnerships at iHub. She was the Founding Manager between 2010 and 2011 at iHub and Research Director between 2011 and 2013 at iHub Research. She is passionate about Innovation, Research, Mobile and Robotics Technology, Mentorship and Entrepreneurship in Kenya as she uses her position at iHub to court local, regional and international stakeholders to adopt Kenyan-made and African-made solutions. As an upcoming angel investor, she courts local and international investors to invest in great tech ideas and companies at idea and concept stage. She is also a Mobile and Robotics Tech Evangelist, Co-Founder of WMIAfrica and AkiraChix, ISOC-Kenya Chapter, Treasurer, ACM-W Nairobi Chapter Chair, TED Global Fellow 2009 and upcoming Guitarist. She was named one of the top 40 women under 40 years in Kenya's business scene by Business Daily on 2009, 2011 and 2012. Her endeavour is to put Kenya and Africa on the map for technology achievements and spur innovation within the country and continent! She blogs at:

  • Paul at 11:54:38AM Tuesday, September 27, 2011

    Well a small correction on average download speed.According to this are doing 138kbps nationally more similar to our East African counterparts.Your statistics may be true only in some parts but nationally the average is far much lower.Ooh this is the national average internet speed.Google has the download.It will be interesting to look at that stat too.great insight there on how the rest of the world compares.

  • Mark Mugarura at 13:22:41PM Tuesday, September 27, 2011

    Internet prices have gone down and speeds have increased; that’s true to an extent but in the global context, internet prices in Africa are still the highest whilst speeds the lowest. So who’s to blame for this; I believe it’s governments. Telco licenses are really expensive and such costs are transferred to consumers. Our governments should try the Finish model of free licensing for low tariff guarantees by players. Wait, I think this borders on dreaming… Foregoing short term lost revenues from licensing would create serious benefits to our economies right away.

  • Infographic: Mobile Subscribers, Penetration & Internet — WhiteAfrican at 14:54:17PM Tuesday, September 27, 2011

    [...] so many sources, and to Patrick Munyi for creating this cool visualization of it. Check out the iHub blog post to read the [...]

  • Jon Hoehler at 19:55:43PM Wednesday, September 28, 2011

    Under the penetration section of the infographic, it claims that 98% of mobile subscribers use the mobile internet which suggests a 98% WAP handset (2.5G / GRPS) and up penetration in Kenya.. Is that correct?

    In my home territory of South Africa, we only see around 15mil active WAP users out of 52mil subscriptions….

    Is that stat of 98% correct? and if so who was the source of that statistic?

  • The landscape of the Kenyan mobile scene [infographic] | memeburn at 07:17:50AM Friday, September 30, 2011

    [...] Safaricom and Orange announced download speeds of up to 21Mbps on their 3G networks.Check out the iHub blog post to read the rest.Click on the image to get a bigger view and look out for more infographics on the [...]

  • Mobile Broadband in Kenya | The Ulwazi Programme at 09:55:56AM Friday, September 30, 2011

    [...] Read the full article at iHub … [...]

  • Bob A at 13:40:44PM Friday, September 30, 2011

    I love the theoretical speeds of Kenya mobile broadband — 21mbps would be awesome. I needed a backup mobile device, so when Orange introduced their 3G+ modem at around KSh 3,000/=, we bought it. They looked up coverage on their map and our location was within the coverage and they confidently assured us that we would see 21mbps. Well, I didn’t really believe I would see that kind of speed, but I did hope for somewhere in the 5-10 mbps range. I got home, plugged in the modem, and checked the speed on Wow! I got a blazing 0.12mbps! A couple of days later, I tested it again in a different location in the house and showed 2.89mbps. Better, but nowhere near 21mbps. And, I NEVER see download speeds anywhere near 2mbps — usually runs 25-75kbps.

    Theory is great. I would prefer, however, for the companies to be up-front and say what we should reasonably expect in actual use. I would also prefer that they beef up their infrastructure to give the consumer really good internet access at reasonable prices.

  • MM at 20:44:44PM Sunday, October 2, 2011

    What we pay for and what we get are two completely different things!The telcos keep advertising ‘unlimited offers’ and ‘prices have come down’ but I do not think they are being as clear as they should in their adverts.I subscribed to one of the ‘unlimited plans’ thinking that I would be a very happy individual only to be disappointed.I could not get speeds faster than 40Kbps(on the higher side) and when I communicated with the company they informed me that unlimited internet is capped at 512Kbps and may be affected by my location and the number of people connected at any given time!Simply put,they admitted that I would have to be the luckiest man on earth to get anywhere close to 512Kbps.My biggest question was why they never bothered to specify this on their adverts,even in small print.What a shame from the leading service provider,it has now resorted to conning its clients!I must say that The CCK has completely lost its purpose as far as regulating the service providers is concerned.They should keep them accountable to their promises.If they claim that they are giving you 512Kbps,let them give you just that and nothing less!How they do it is entirely their engineers’ headaches.

  • iHub stats on mobile broadband in Kenya « nishauri | mobile for sexual health at 09:06:57AM Monday, January 30, 2012

    [...] interesting statistics on mobile subscriptions, penetration and broadband usage patterns in Kenya. Patrick Munyi over at the iHub blog writes: Subscribers are now opting to access Internet and other web based services on the go from [...]

  • Infographic: Mobile and Internet in Tanzania — WhiteAfrican at 16:41:35PM Wednesday, February 1, 2012

    [...] iHub Research team has worked up an infographic on Tanzania to match their past ones on Kenya and Uganda. We’re looking at 50% mobile phone penetration in Tanzania, with about 22 million [...]

  • This is a joke of a Minister. - Page 2 - Mashada Forums at 15:36:56PM Wednesday, April 4, 2012

    [...] with bows and arrows instead of smartphones like kids do in my village. Check out the data here: Mobile Broadband in Kenya *iHub_ .. Last edited by baharia mzenge; Today at 07:25 [...]

  • iHub: Experiencing the Energy at Nairobi’s Innovative ICT Facility | oikos Blog at 11:57:54AM Friday, September 7, 2012

    [...] of the growth in Kenya's ICT sector has been made possible by the arrival of four fiber optic cables in 2009, with the fifth currently on its way.  The cables dramatically increased download [...]

  • iHub: Experiencing the Energy at Nairobi’s Innovative ICT Facility | Studentreporter at 06:49:57AM Saturday, September 8, 2012

    [...] of the growth in Kenya’s ICT sector has been made possible by the arrival of four fiber optic cables in 2009, with the fifth currently on its way. The cables dramatically increased download speeds and [...]

  • Mobile and Internet Numbers for East Africa (2013 edition) | WhiteAfrican at 08:51:58AM Friday, July 19, 2013

    [...] the old ones from 2011 in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. You can also see the some 2012 numbers on the iHub that they put together as well. [...]

  • Weekly Review September 26-30 | Invested Development at 22:36:52PM Tuesday, April 1, 2014

    […] “Mobile Broadband in Kenya” by Patrick Munyi on iHub Blog Kenya has been the shining star of mobile technology innovation in Africa, largely fueled by high mobile penetration and the installation of undersea fiber cables in 2009. The folks at iHub Nairobi have collected data regarding mobile technology and mobile broadband usage in Kenya.  They have found that broadband speeds are increasing alongside the number of users and that most access the Internet with their phone; “98% of mobile subscribers use mobile internet.” More important are the affects mobile Internet will have on the Kenyan economy. iHub writes, “It is predicted that mobile broadband can potentially increase national productivity and growth by up to 15%.” Access to mobile phones, and therefore mobile broadband, will made a significant improvement in the continued development of Kenya.  “Crises in the Digital Age” by Michael Fertik, CEO and Founder of, on World Economic Forum Blog Michael Fertik reflects on the attitude world leaders had on Internet at the World Economic Forum in Davos this year. All agreed and wanted to know more about how the Internet “spreads information, misinformation, rumor, innuendo, and fact.” While the Internet can cause a stir, the information it channels to underserved populations is critical. Fertik writes of the impact the Internet has in times of crisis or disaster. We agree that technology creates impact by absorbing and transmitting information, and add that it doesn’t just have to be in times of crisis. “2011 Most Influential Women in Technology – Katrin Verclas” by E.B. Boyd on Fast Company Katrin Verclas, founder of, has been honored as one of the most influential women in technology this year. Her site is a “hub for people around the world who are building tools for mobile phones that make a difference.” Her site unites the large community of technology innovators who are working to create technologies that empower the world’s underserved populations. This way, innovators can share their experiences and expertise to create affordable and scalable products and services for the underserved. By promoting the development of applications and mobile technologies, we can leverage mobile ubiquity to create social impact. Congratulations to Katrin Verclas and thanks for propelling the technology for impact space forward. “HP Invests for Growth in Africa; New operations in 10 countries bring transformative technology solutions to help drive sustainable, long-term growth” Press Release from HP on Market Watch It’s not just small social enterprises that have caught on the potential at the BoP and technology’s power for impact. The IT giant Hewlett-Packard (HP) is expanding its operations in Africa with 10 new entities throughout the continent. Business customers, governments, and individuals will have improved access to HP’s hardware and software. Governments especially will be able to leverage HP technology “to drive economic growth by modernizing the delivery of services in key areas such as education, healthcare, and e-Government services.” By penetrating the market, HP will drive increased adoption of technology and promote sustainable economic development. HP’s presence alone will create jobs and stability throughout their communities. HP also has plans for many other initiatives to collaborate with universities, innovate in African education and extend social innovation programs. Follow us on Twitter Like us on Facebook Bring your idea to enterprise with BETA […]


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