Liquid Telecom takes over Nakuru free Wi-Fi contract


Liquid Telecom Kenya CEO Ben Roberts. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA

Liquid Telecom, formerly known as Kenya Data Networks (KDN), has taken over the contract to connect Nakuru residents with free Wi-Fi, barely a year after a similar project by Telkom Kenya’s Orange flopped.

The company has redesigned the Wi-Fi network and installed new equipment at a cost of Sh36.4 million ($400,000) to serve over 1.6 million residents of the Rift Valley town.

The free Internet, set to run at speeds of up to 1 gigabyte per second, is expected to spur development in the county by putting businesses online and connecting campuses.

“We have in place 60 hot spots where connectivity will be strongest including shopping malls, the stadiums, university campuses and the county CBD,” said Ben Roberts, the Liquid Telecom Kenya CEO.

He said the company took up the deal on request by the State House Digital Team, which is headed by Dennis Itumbi.

Mr Roberts said Nakuru residents are already connected to the community Wi-Fi service dubbed Bilawaya at the hotspots which will be increased over time.

Nakuru County Director of Communications Eddy Kimani confirmed the free Wi-Fi by Liquid Telcom was up and running, awaiting official unveiling.

“The first phase covered the CBD and its environs while the second phase will cover residential areas and parts of Gilgil, Naivasha and Njoro,” he said in an interview.

Liquid Telecom has to date connected 39 out of 47 counties laying 4200 kilometres of fibre optic network in the country.

READ: Nakuru probes use of funds in Sh200m internet project

Counties that have benefited from the free Wi-Fi in the past few months include Siaya, Busia, Bungoma, Homabay and Migori; with plans underway to connect Lamu this year.

In April last year, Orange in partnership with INFONET (an innovations group), announced that it would provide free Wi-Fi access to Nakuru residents.

The project, Orange stated, was part of its ‘strategy of enhancing the use of its infrastructure to offer value-added data and voice solutions to the counties.’

Through the venture, Nakuru became the first County in the country to provide free Wi-Fi to its residents.

The Wi-Fi by Orange was to work within a 10-kilometre radius, in the first phase, covering Nakuru’s Central Business District (CBD) equipped with seven base stations.

The plan was to roll out the network to other parts of the county allowing users 24-hour, unlimited data usage while restricting movie downloads and visits to adult sites.

However, residents claim the free Wi-Fi never worked.