Residents of remote villages of Kilifi and Kwale counties can now make and receive calls after Safaricom #ticker:SCOM and Telkom Kenya installed base transceiver stations in a Sh1.24 billion project with the sector regulator.
The deal with the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) aims to add 319,298 Kenyans in remote areas to the telecoms grid.
In Kilifi, Safaricom has put up three stations while Telkom built three in Kwale.
Speaking during a visit by the Universal Service Advisory Council, the advisory arm of the CA, residents said they were now enjoying better connectivity.
"There was no network. Internet was a problem. We used to go to higher grounds to make a call but now you can make a call in the comfort of your house,” said Fredrick Ngumbao, headteacher at Milore Primary School.
Douglas Mwasi, a teacher at the school said since he bought his first mobile phone seven years ago, he had been struggling with dropped calls.
"We really used to suffer. If you are using Safaricom you had to go to Vitengeni … There were also many challenges when it came to M-Pesa as you had to wait for some time to get the money or messages,” he said.
Some 1,572 people in the area will now benefit from better network coverage. Other areas in Kilifi with new Safaricom stations are Mkondoni and Baulala.
Dr Kennedy Okong'o, a member of the Universal Services Advisory Council, said the area will now attract more investors.
“The intention is to stimulate the economy of such an area … Access to communication is like a human right to everyone today. Without communication you cannot access some services that are online,” he said.
Paul Kiage, assistant director Universal Service Fund — a kitty to boost connectivity — said three stations in Kwale are in Pehoni and Dzimanyi Primary School and will serve residents in six sub-locations namely Busa, Vigurungani, Mwandimu, Kilibasi, Kasemeni and Kilimangodo.
The stations will be owned by the CA for five years while the telcos will maintain them on behalf of the regulator. The ownership will be transferred to the telcos after the five years.