Partner feature: George Kebaso, Managing Director of Carrier Services - Telkom Kenya
Previously part of the Kenya Posts and Telecommunications Corporation (KPTC), Telkom Kenya is the sole provider of landline phone services in Kenya. In mid-2017, the Kenyan telco went through a major rebrand, dropping its Orange brand and adopted Telkom as its new trading name.
This month, we sat down with George Kebaso, Managing Director of Carrier Services at Telkom Kenya to answer five questions on Telkom Kenya’s rebranding journey, undersea fibre optic cables and their carrier services.
Telkom Kenya has been through a major rebrand during the past year, what have been the major/new changes that you have undergone in your brand?
Telkom Kenya has undergone changes in many areas:
Clearly defined business lines: Mobile, Enterprise, Carrier Services/Mobile Financial Services:
- Internal re-organization hinged on key competencies, talent growth of staff and set up of a performance management structure.
- The re-organization confirms the business key focus areas.
Network Expansion and upgrade:
- Invested KSH 5 billion ($50 million) into network/infrastructure which has increased our sites by 50 percent.
- Doubled our capacity and coverage/reach of our network.
- Launch of 4G network in more than 30 urban centres.
- Invested KSH 600M ($6 million) for the upgrade on our carrier metro and backbone networks to enhance service to multiple undersea cable routes and extend our reach to the East African market.
Mobile Money platform:
- Telkom Kenya’s mobile money platform T-kash launched 13th March 2018.
- The new platform is disruptive and flexible with the accelerating young digitally savvy generation.
Revamped distribution channels:
- We are increasing our presence across different customer touch points.
- Agent availability, increment of retail shops and enhancing our overall distribution.
Launch of new, customer-centric products:
- Free WhatsApp
- Free 4G offer
- Home Data plan
- Freedom Bundles
Having invested in multiple undersea fibre optic cables, what has been the impact on uplifting Kenya’s status as a communications hub to connect its East African neighbors to the outside world? How has this changed Mombasa into a hub?
The landing of the cables in Mombasa saw the internet rates reduced drastically by up to 70% in the first year and later a gradual decline of almost 40% per year. To support access to the undersea cables, several terrestrial cables have been laid across Kenya by Telkom Kenya, other Telcos, National Optic Fibre Backbone by the Government of Kenya (NOFBI), utility firms and lately infrastructure providers like the SGR railway. Telkom Kenya lit several kilometers of overhead cable, NOFBI cable in addition to its own cable to the Ugandan border, to provide connectivity across Kenya with impressive uptime to support Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan and DRC operators to access undersea cables capacities. Telkom Kenya also have optic fibre connectivity to Ethiopian, Somalian and Tanzanian borders using NOFBI, to support telecommunication operators in those countries to access undersea cables.
Telkom Kenya developed and provided colocation facilities at its Mombasa Telephone House to meet the demand of market and enable other operators to interconnect to the undersea cables and use backhaul of their choice across Kenya, making Mombasa a telecommunication connectivity hub for the region.
Tell us about Telkom Kenya’s carrier services strategy for the region and what growth you expect to see.
Carrier services positions itself as a carrier of choice for the regional operators with interest in the region. Our key strategy is uptime of links for interconnectivity and quality of services to our clients, in addition to value added services to meet the needs of our clientele. Despite the challenges of capacity price decline and increased competition, Telkom Kenya carrier services projects a 100% traffic growth in 2018.
Mobile data continues to be the greatest contributor of data/internet subscription in Kenya’ how is Telkom Kenya investing in its network infrastructure developments to improve connectivity and increase capacity to cater to the growing mobile market?
Telkom Kenya has increased its 3G coverage to about 61% over the last year and is currently rolling out 4G/LTE network in realization of the fact that mobile telephony is the main contributor of internet access in Kenya. In addition, Telkom Kenya intends to connect all its 4G mobile sites with high capacity fibre links to meet capacity demand.
Why is a carrier neutral data center in Mombasa important for your strategy?
A carrier neutral data centre in Mombasa will attract more international carriers to the country. This will in turn increase demand for connectivity within Kenya and internationally where terrestrial and undersea cables will be used to serve the demand. This is in line with Carrier Services strategy of developing and fulfilling the demand to serve and fulfil the market economic and social needs.
Tech highlights from The World Economic Forum 2018
The World Economic Forum’s 48th Annual Meeting took place from 23rd-26th January 2018 in Davos, bringing together more than 2,500 leaders from business, government, international organizations, civil society, academia, media and the arts.
The theme this year was, Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World which focused on finding ways to commit to international collaboration as a way of solving critical global challenges.
Tech is shaping global economy today and has become a customary topic at the globalist summit. This year, top executives from companies like Google, Alibaba, IBM, Salesforce, Uber etc. joined leaders from around the world to talk about technology at the forum, with speakers discussing a wide range of topics.
We’ve put together a list of our pick on the five hottest topics discussed.
The future of AI
During a keynote interview, Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai advocated on Google’s commitment to using artificial intelligence to solve most of the problems in the world today. He argued that AI is more important to humanity than electricity and fire. It has the potential of changing how we do things, he said, pointing to energy and education.
“AI is probably the most important thing humans have ever worked on,” said Pichai. “I think of it as something more profound than electricity and fire. Any time you work with technology, you need to learn how to harness the benefits while minimizing the downsides. Stepping back, when you think about a lot of problems in the world, we typically have a constraint on resources. AI for the first time offers a different construct.”
Blockchain and Cryptocurrency
A panel titled “The Crypto Asset Bubble” was discussed at the WEF this year. It featured: Robert J. Shiller, Sterling Professor of Economics, Yale University; Cecilia Skingsley, Deputy Governor of the Swedish Central Bank; and venture capitalists Jennifer Zhu Scott and Neil Rimer. Most of the panelists agreed that Bitcoin should not be called a currency or treated as one, referring to it more like gold.
Bitcoin aside, the panelists were all more enthusiastic about Blockchain as a promising technology with many useful applications.
Automation was one of the most popular topics at Davos this year. Automation has already disrupted the labor market, and it continues to do so in a way that is widening the gap between rich and poor. During a panel titled, “Data Responsibility in a Fractured World”, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty stated, “These technologies are changing enough that they need guiding into this world, or we’re not going to like where we end up,” said Rometty. “We are going to have to prepare the world’s workforce. That means not just the youth, but retraining and lifelong learning. You must prepare the world for these technologies, and it’s not just AI. There’s a whole string coming, whether it’s quantum or more. You must usher them in with purpose and transparency. This technology is to help you. This is to make you a better human. It’s man and machine.”
Joe Kaeser, CEO of Siemens AG stated, “Because the Fourth Industrial Revolution runs on knowledge, we need a concurrent revolution in training and education. Here, both government and business must join forces to provide workers with the skills and qualifications they need to participate in the digital economy.”
In Technology We Trust
The “In Technology We Trust?” speakers included CEO of Salesforce.com Marc R. Benioff, CEO of WPP Plc Sir Martin Sorrell, CEO of Alphabet Ruth Porat, CEO of Uber Technologies Inc. Dara Khosrowshahi, and Rachel Botsman of the University of Oxford.
Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff stressed the need for increased regulation in the tech world, saying tech companies have mostly operated outside of regulatory oversight thus far, and that should change.
“The signs are pointing to more regulation,” he said.
“In the tech industry, we have been clear of those regulations for the entire lifespan of the industry and we are seeing signs, especially this year, especially with the elections, especially with social networks, and especially when you see CEOs who abdicate their responsibility and say ‘I didn’t know.’”
Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi agreed. “Where regulators can play a part is accountability,” he said, pointing to CEOs who should know what’s happening at their companies and should be removed if they don’t. “I’d ask regulators be harsh with accountability,” with CEOs, he said.
A new joint venture was launched between the Craig Newmark Foundation and the WEF to bring together internet platform giants and multi-stakeholder leaders. The initiative will be developed further this year.
eCommerce affects the global economy to a greater degree every year. The panel, “Enabling eCommerce: Small Enterprises, Global Players”, featured Prime Minister of Peru Mercedes Araoz, President of Rags2Riches Therese Fernandez Ruiz, Alibaba Group Executive Chairman Jack Ma, and WTO Director General Roberto Azevedo.
The panel made it clear that they believe eCommerce is here to stay. Jack Ma stated,“It’s going to be the future. eCommerce is not for the big companies, the developed countries. It’s for the developing countries, young people, and small businesses.”
“E-commerce will replace a lot of traditional ways of doing business,” said Ma “In the past 20 years with poor logistics, terrible payments, and terrible internet connections, e-commerce has still grown like this for our platform in China for the last 15 years. Last year, sales were more than $750 billion USD, almost ranking number 21 in country’s GDP.”
Source for this post. World Economic Forum 2018
Ways in which organizations can increase their data efficiency
Many companies understand the importance of incorporating a solid ICT strategy to stay ahead of the business curve. Part of this strategy has increasingly involved adding a data management function to the organization and hiring Chief Data/Information Officer whose job it is to organize, govern, analyze and deploy a company’s information assets. Data is essentially the ‘new oil’ and has been instrumental in powering organizations to new heights of success. More and more organizations are becoming dependent on data analytics to make business strategy decisions as new tools and platforms keep surfacing for data management.
There has never been a better time to be involved in data management. When done correctly, the data from emerging sources like increased mobile adoption, the Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence, offers enterprises unprecedented opportunities to drive organizational efficiency. The inability of businesses to scale their data center capacity is a common problem for many CIO’s today.
Colocation is fast becoming the go-to solution for companies seeking to address capacity constraints. Companies are fast realizing that building their own mission-critical facilities no longer favors the return on investment that switching to a colocation service provider will. Colocation providers have the facilities design expertise and purchasing power through economies of scale to deliver power, space, and cooling at prices that can’t be approached by individual companies that build their own data centers, and colocation service providers run their facilities at a much higher efficiency.
Another factor affecting the data strategy for enterprises is the demand for higher power density for the latest IT infrastructure. Virtualization has increased workloads and companies are in a twist trying to keep their energy footprint, while powering and cooling the infrastructure in their legacy data centers, from growing in tandem with their data needs. It is more expensive from a Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) perspective, to retrofit an old data center with the latest in tech than it is to use modern colocation facilities.
The demand for proximity to users as businesses seek to improve end-user experience is also a leading factor that influences a company’s decision to opt for edge data centers in multiple locations. Colocation is the obvious choice for outfits that want to avoid building and staffing their own distributed data centers.
The interconnectedness that carrier neutral data centers like icolo.io provide also offers opportunity to improve network performance and service delivery to the end-user. It allows for a choice between multiple carriers and the ability to extend private networks without using the public internet. It also allows for communication between multiple systems in the data center and covers communications between colocation infrastructure and any end -point, including other data centers and public-cloud services.
The decision to switch to a colocation model is about improving efficiency and at the same time increasing the flexibility of an organization’s data center to more easily adapt to business changes. Colocation gives enterprises room to scale their data capacity goals at will and that is a key business benefit.
What future-proofing means for data centers
From dial-up phones to Windows XP, floppy discs and SQLServer 2005, we have learnt that living in an age of accelerated technological change means contending with and planning for obsolescence. In the past, future-proofing has been defined as taking the appropriate steps to fully maximize the amount of work done to provide value for a technological investment before it becomes obsolete. This logical path is helpful only when enterprise goals are profit driven for the short term. What happens when we take tomorrow into account?
Instead of spending money on technology and infrastructure to avoid change for as long as possible or to try and side-step the need to buy new technology down the road, we encourage thinking of future-proofing as an ongoing strategy to try and maintain the flexibility in an organization to keep up as technology evolves. Organizations that understand their current technology will become obsolete and invest early in future revolutionary technologies allowing them to have greater competitive advantages.
We’re quickly heading towards a world with more than 50 billion connected things. In Africa alone, in fact, it is said there are more mobile phones than toilets. Internet penetration in Kenya is at 89%. Mobile connections worldwide hugely outnumber people. All this generates a lot of data! And almost all of it is saved on server racks in the cloud and colocation data centers.
Between IoT, AI, conversational user interfaces, virtual reality and other technologies we expect to become ubiquitous as the year wears on, we expect the data generated to increase massively. The vast amounts of information produced on these new platforms in addition to what we already have has led to the famous Big Data problem which will lead enterprises to struggle in processing, storing and organizing information. The responsibility falls squarely on data centers to anticipate the massive data loads and begin the work to install more cabling and increase infrastructure capacity.
The ways in which colocation providers innovate to support this demand are being shaped by the growing list of emerging technologies. A future friendly data center at its core maintains four characteristics:
- Usability: meets client’s business performance needs as well as high uptime. Security and compliance standards also rank high in growing colocation customer concerns. icolo will soon be ISO27001 certified, this is an international certification that guarantees data and information security at the highest level.
- Scalability: allows them to tap into existing infrastructure to accommodate future data growth and changing business needs.
- Flexibility: the ability of their infrastructure to support a wide array of technologies and manage upgrades efficiently. Carrier neutral data centers are exceptionally flexible because their very nature encourages a varied clientele.
- Cost efficiency: to allow for continued investment in technology as the data environment changes.
Staff feature: Rina Sodha
“Innovative, engaging and rewarding” are three words Rina Sodha used to describe icolo.io.”
Rina joined icolo.io in 2015 as a Customer Implementation Manager. With nineteen years of experience in the IT field, she previously worked for Shell Kenya as the Regional Desktop focal point for Africa and later joined Hewlett Packard Enterprise as a Project Manager.
Sodha is an expert level Project Manager, with vast experience in managing complex infrastructure projects in the African continent. She has virtually managed and led multi-disciplined, cross-functional and multi-cultural technical teams. Rina has extensive knowledge with infrastructure mergers, divestments, site implementations and decommissioning.
At icolo.io, Rina managed the infrastructure project management for MBA1 by developing a program plan for the fit out of the data center. She has played a vital role in supporting of vendor selection and specification phases, reviewing Bill of Quantities, and negotiating SLA maintenance contracts. Rina is the single point of contact for customers technical and operational issues during implementation. She coordinates and ensures an effective and efficient implementation process for on-boarding all customers at MBA1.
We asked Rina two questions about her journey with icolo.io and here’s what she had to say.
- What do you find most challenging at icolo.io?
On-boarding a world class operation/facility within the constraints of a developing nation has been challenging, however seeing the product going live has been extremely rewarding.
- What have you gained from working with icolo.io?
A unique blend of collaboration where teamwork and individual initiatives work towards truly meeting the customers need in an ever-changing market.