One of Safaricom’s popular products is Home Fibre. It was launched more than two years ago and has since covered an extensive part of Nairobi. The initial launch, which targeted Nairobi East and Kikuyu areas, focused on parts that were not served by competing products. This was a good move because Safaricom managed to secure a substantial number of customers who could not access fibre services due to unavailability.
As of last month, the telco has taken the services to Nyeri, adding to the number of urban centres that can now enjoy the service. In addition, residents in the Central Province’s headquarters add to more than 213,000 households served by the popular product.
The town is also served by the likes of Mawingu Network (based in Nanyuki) via unused TV white spaces. However, the Microsoft co-owned product saw a drop in the number of active users based on the Communications Authority’s latest sector statistics report.
Home Fibre is also available in Kisumu and Mombasa (although, according to the Home Fibre coverage map, the areas served are relatively small).
On the whole, this is good news for Nyeri folks who have been in dire need of reliable home internet service. Also, the development sheds light on the future rollouts that may target additional towns in the country that should also motivate rivals to expand their products to other parts of the country.
While such rollouts are influenced by business and strategic decisions, it is good to see that the product is gaining more ground in areas outside of Kenya’s three cities.
4K Content Limitations
Amidst the Nyeri launch is another key development: according to a service care rep, Home Fibre users need at least 23 Mbps to get access to 4K content. Effectively, this means Gold subscribers (20 Mbps), who pay KES 5,699 for the service thanks to the aftermath of the Finance Act, need to upgrade their package to Platinum if at all they want to stream high-res content.
Simply put, this move is absurd and maddeningly unnecessary because Home Fibre is already too expensive compared to what other companies offer. In fact, a lot of subscribers are going to fault the move, let alone entertain the idea of upgrading their package to 40 Mbps at KES 11,499 since Safaricom does not offer a 30 Mbps option – and even if it did, the product would be too pricey.
We are not aware of the reasons behind these underhand tactics that have since made an otherwise excellent product too hard to recommend anymore. The issues arose in late 2018 when users reported that downloads were crippling their browsing experience that turned out to be true. The mobile carrier did not reveal that Home Fibre usage was going to dedicate bandwidth to specific activities (such as downloads in this case) to ‘optimize performance.’
It is now apparent that the product’s expansion approach was misleading to many: offer excellent services at launch for mass onboarding before introducing unpopular tactics because users should have already invested time and money to make a move elsewhere.
How the Home Fibre team will address these issues will determine the product’s report card for its otherwise tarnished reputation.