More Kenyans living in remote areas have reduced long trips to mountain tops and tree climbing to make crucial calls to loved ones and complete business transactions.
It is now possible for more than 400,000 residents in some 78 sub-locations to browse the internet, connect with friends and families over the phone and complete transactions through local M-pesa Agents.
They are now reaping the dividend of investments made by telecommunication service operators who have been making an annual contribution of 0.5 percent of their revenues since 2013 to put up base transmission stations through a dedicated kitty, the Universal Service Fund.
While the initiative was mooted in 2009 the Operators started active remittance of the USF levy in 2013 and within five years to 2017, a total of Sh5.3 Billion had been collected.
So far more than Sh7.1 billion has been raised for the USF from the 0.5 percent revenue tax remitted by telecommunication operators and internet service providers.
Giant Telco, Safaricom has played a critical role through consistent contribution and active participation in battling for the tender to install the infrastructure in areas where mobile phone subscribers have found it difficult to make calls.
Safaricom has made significant contributions to the fund since its inception, with a commitment to put more resources along the guidelines set by the funds council and its aspirations to transform lives of Kenyans through robust and reliable communication services.
The telco announced its plans to invest between Sh35-38 billion in infrastructure expansion, to meet rising demand for high speed data as it strives to transform lives across the country.
Out of 202 sub locations tendered in fiscal year 2017-2018, Safaricom picked 50 while Telkom Kenya picked 28 sites. A total of 78 sub locations are now complete.
By picking more sites, Safaricom affirms its commitment to ensuring that all its subscribers get seamless connection both in urban and remote setting and reach out to disadvantaged communities.
A 2016 Study found out that there are 348 sub locations across the country that were not covered by mobile voice services.
The study had identified more than 3.5 million Kenyans were still not able to enjoy mobile voice services due to a lack in Base Transmission Stations with the radius of their residential areas.
A deliberate effort initiated by the Communication Authority domiciled Fund, USAC supported by Mobile service providers raised Sh 2.4 Billion that has currently made significant headways to boost connectivity in the country.
So far, Sh 1.24 Billion has been invested in installation for provision of mobile voice service, while Sh 830 million used to expand broadband connection to schools in the selected sub locations.
Universal Service Advisory Council (USAC) has its eyes fixed on installation of Base Transmission stations where there is no coverage and ensuring high Schools in these areas are connected to a maximum 5Mbps broadband.
The task also entails set up of systems with 1Mbps uplink Internet connection in 896 Secondary learning institutions that were selected based on their e-readiness.
More than 120 schools from Nairobi, Machakos, Kiambu, Murang’a, Kakamega and Nandi counties have so far benefited from this initiative.
Additional funds totalling Sh3Billion will be availed for the second-round implementation of the project to see more sub-locations connected with broadband and voice infrastructure.
While there is tremendous growth reported so far in terms of connecting more sub locations and transforming lives by building small global villages, the Communications regulator says Sh 75 billion is required to sufficiently address the voice access gap. Another Sh250 billion is needed to bridge the broadband access gap.
It is envisaged that by the 2021-2022 fiscal year, a total of Sh 10.4 Billion will be spent on USF implementation projects to close existing gaps in voice and broadband connectivity.
The infrastructure built under the USF levy are exclusively owned by the financing Operators for a maximum period of 12 months after which they are required to operate them on a sharing basis. Under the model a regulated fee is charged to other operators who might want to ride on the infrastructure to expand services in the previously underserved regions.
Apart from Safaricom and Telkom Kenya, Internet service providers Xtranet Communications Limited, Liquid Telecommunications Limited and Commcarrier Satellite Services, are also playing a critical role to boost connectivity in remote areas.