Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Zain on the EDGE of Ngong

[Ngong, Kenya]
WELL, I'M here in Ngong blogging from my room using Mrs. C's Huawei E220 HSDPA USB modem. I told her to buy this instead of Safaricom's package because I truly believe Celtel (oops, I mean Zain) has the superior data network. Heck, I don't give a sh!t about voice! Just show me the data pipe baby. :-) By the way, I'm not the biggest fan of telecom companies. Just take a peek at these 2 posts I wrote in 2006 to know why:
Zain: the better option?
As a matter of fact, Zain is simply the better option when it comes to voice too. Safaricom subscribers are stooopid for paying KSh 10/minute when they can buy a Zain SIM and get unlimited daytime (6a - 6p) calls for KSh 99. That's obscenely cheap folks. But it gets better. After 6pm and weekends, you only pay KSh 3/minute. And don't forget that Zain has a tariff where you list the 3 Zain numbers that you call the most, and you only pay KSh 4/minute forever. Is this the same elitist Celtel (er Zain) that was charging ridiculous rates not too long ago? Oh my, how times have changed - for the better.

So, why are Safaricom prepaid subscribers not jumping ship in greater numbers? It absolutely boggles the mind that I have to keep my bloody Safaricom SIM in my celly after 6pm just so that my idiot friends can call me. In a sense, they're inconveniencing me by not using the "better option" after 6pm and on weekends. How selfish of them, eh? :-)

Zain not 3G yet...
Anyhow, Zain has not rolled out their 3G network offering yet to compete with Safaricom's [HotSpot] data offering. But then again, can Safaricom beat Zain's unlimited postpaid data package of KShs 2995 per month? Nope. Unlimited is not in their vocabulary - yet. Someone at Zain customer care did inform me that 3G is coming "soon." I've heard that one before, and I don't really care because it'll probably be a while before them (or Safaricom) bring HSDPA data services to Ngong. Again, I don't give a damn about voice. I can do all of that on the Information Super Highway - and a lot more. Yacking is for idiots who have money to waste.

One thing though...I read somewhere that Safaricom's HSDPA download rates were fast as hell in areas such as Westlands, Upper Hill and CDB. Some Kenyan blogger mentioned speeds hovering around 1 Megabit/sec when he's surfin' in Westlands. Well, I'll believe it when I see it. Heck, if that's true, I'll pack my things and relocate to Westlands. Nah, Ngong's quiet and I can actually think out here. :-)

Getting EDGEy...
Anyhow, over the past few days, I've been playing around with this Huawei modem on Mac OS X and I'm quite impressed with the ease that it installed. I'm still shocked because hardly anyone makes hardware that installs on a Mac since everyone's hooked on virus-prone Windows. Way to go Huawei! I'm now a bigger fan of your products.
So, how does Zain's network perform here in Ngong? Remember, this town is about a 40 minute drive by car from the Nairobi's downtown Central Business District. On certain occasions, I'm sure you can do it in about 25 to 30 minutes. Yeah, at 2am in the morning! :-)
Well, as you can see in the pic above, I was able to download at a top rate of 10.4 KB/s while topping out at a respectable 18 KB/s. Hey, remember I'm in Ngong - not Westlands or snobby Upper Hill.

My advice to Safaricom & Zain
I urge you 2 to focus on bringing affordable, reliable broadband data services to the rural communities because it'll spur on economic development faster than any other government initiative. I know it's hard to resist the lucrative markets like Upper Hill, Wetlands, CBD, Kilimani, Lavington, Runda, Karen, Muthaiga et al, but think about the impact you'll have on the country. You 2 have the power to quickly change a lot of things in this country - for the better.

Cheap access to the Internet means that more people can connect, share ideas and try out new things. And let's face it, you 2 have the infrastructure and know-how to do it.

Telkom Kenya, WTF?!?
By the way, I really don't know what the hell the brain trust at Telkom Wireless are smoking. How on earth can they charge KSh 3 per minute for their CDMA data services when Safaricom and Zain are charging by the megabyte? Telkom, you havent a clue what the hell you're doing, do you? What a disgrace you are to Kenya. How could you let so many people down? What were you thinking? Where's your EV-DO service to match the 3G/HSDPA offerings of your rivals? I have lost all faith in you, Telkom. Luckily, you have the government to back up your uncompetitive behind. Do us all a favour, and just go to hell.

Ngong, a hidden treasure?
Lastly, I just have to say that it's lovely up here, and the view of Ngong Hills from the back yard or from my good pal's (Robert Ouko - former 72' Olympic 800m Gold Medalist) flat is absolutely breath taking. And it's so quiet in these parts...no noisy traffic disrupting your thoughts and everyone in this particular area (Kerarapon) is so friendly. Heck, we have monthly residents meetings for this 4 sq-km area that's situated in Ngong, and the police attends them too. So everybody knows their neighbour and crime here is like a tiny blip compared to all the crap that's going on in Karen and Nairobi.

Also, Kerarapon boasts its own natural springs that's managed by the Kerarapon Water Commission where Mr. Ouko was the outgoing Secretary. He did a fabulous job by the way. Hence water rates are ridiculously cheap at KSh 2 per gallon. Yet Karen is like an 8 minute car (or matatu) ride if you need to go to Nakumatt or do banking at Karen Crossroads Mall.

Honestly, I see a bright future for Ngong - especially Kerarapon. Lots of peeps are moving from places like Runda, Lavington and Karen since the price is right. Heck the late, former Roads Minister (Kipkalya Kones) just recently purchased property on Kerarapon Drive where his wife now resides. I'm sure he would've seen that the main road was paved in a jiffy.

By the way, land only goes for about 800K to 1.2M per acre here. And the land that borders Karen goes for about 3M per acre. Now that's what I call a sweet deal. Contrast that to Karen where land on average goes for about Ksh 13 Million per acre. I've seen plots there going for KSh 16M. No thanks! Once more development takes place by the 17th drive of Kerarapon, then the council will probably allow that bypass road to connect from Karen making travel to other Nairobi suburbs quicker than ever.

My goals while living in this area are:
  1. Assist the community in getting the main road for Kerarapon Drive paved using applied techniques based on affordable, reliable termite technology for long-lasting roads. This alone will spur on more development. I'm to present this solution at the upcoming residents meeting in a few days.

  2. Implement a "community" wireless mesh broadband project in Kerarapon that will attract more development in terms of companies relocating here and better access for the public schools here.

  3. Develop a strategy with association members for a street light initiative (like Esther Passaris' Adopt a Light campaign) so that Kerarapon Drive has affordable lighting throughout the night. This will give the residents here that community piece of mind and spur on more development.

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1 comment:

Kirima said...

Hello, first time here, google led me here when I searched Kerarapon. I was brought up in this community (12th drive) and I have very fond memories of how tight the community was (still is)my folks still live there and I definately support those goals of yours hapo juu.
I agree with you on Zain vs safcon in data services I gave up trying to use the bitter option.