JTL Faiba 4G
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Over the years, JTL (Jamii Telecommunications Limited) has become synonymous with the words fibre, partly attributed to their “Faiba” trademark, that they aptly use for their fibre optic internet service. The company has been offering internet services for homes and enterprises and it seems that they have mastered the art of internet provision that they sought new adventures and thrill in the murky waters of mobile telecommunications.

When news broke that the Communication Authority of Kenya had awarded JTL  a 4G frequency spectrum back in May, the telco industry went bananas, seriously. There’s just something about a new player joining the game, that sends shivers down spines of current players. Consumers were equally shivered, but the good kind – you know, JTL has been in the fibre optic game for a while now and the possibilities of them offering 4G services excited many, if not all.

“The Entry into 4G space is customer driven. 4G is one of the main access methods that Customers use to access Broadband,” starts John Kamau, Managing Director, JTL as he explains that the decision to offer 4G services is a response to their customer’s needs. Internet penetration in Kenya currently stands at 89.4 percent representing  40.5 million Kenyans who are actively using the internet, out of which 53 percent access the internet through their mobile phones. With such numbers, it is no wonder JTL is confident that the market is big enough for them.

Full basket of services

John Kamau expounded that the company would not only offer 4G services but will offer other mobile services such as SMS and voice. Speaking of voice, JTL will be taking the bull by its horns and offering VoLTE (Voice over LTE). For those who don’t know, VoLTE allows customers to make calls across a 4G network. At the moment, no other telco in Kenya offers VoLTE, if you’re on 4G and you receive a call, your device automatically downgrades you to 3G until your call is ended.

JTL has been testing their 4G network since late last year, unlike their competitors who offer 4G on the 800mHz spectrum, Faiba’s 4G will be propagated over the 700mHz spectrum which is considered more efficient compared to the 800mHz frequency since it offers higher penetration inside buildings and provides wider coverage thus reducing the number of cell towers required for setting up the 4G network. For those worried that their current smartphones might now work on Faiba’s network (I fall victim), John says that the company will consider aggregating the 700mHz spectrum with another depending on “availability of Spectrum, Technology and customer demands.”

Speed and coverage

Considering JTL will be offering their services exclusively on the 4G network, network coverage takes top priority. John declined to comment on the network’s coverage before launch, but we have been privileged enough to test the network through the company’s MiFi device and so far the network covers Nairobi and its environs extensively, including, Eastern bypass, Upperhill, Lenana road, Runda, Kiambu road, Kasarani and along Thika road.

capacity limitation is not an issue

In our tests, we have managed to reach average speeds of up to 17Mbps for both downloads and uploads. The lowest we have seen it go is 2Mbps on the download side. JTL affirms to us that this is just for testing purposes, their data pipe, TEAMS cable carries ample capacity to support its infrastructure for both fibre and 4G. As a reassurance, John says that JTL also works with other cables such as WOICC and SEACOM for redundancy, “so capacity limitation on the upstream is not an issue.”

We also have information that the company will offer both bundled data and unlimited data but there’s no word on pricing just yet. Considering Safaricom’s Bob Collymore said that Unlimited data is “not economical” and that those who offer it have either gone out of business or will be going out of business, fingers crossed that unlimited data will not be a tease but a product that JTL can use to stay ahead of the competition.

Faiba Money? Faiba Pay?

Despite there being evidence of a mobile money service cooking up within JTL’s kitchen after the company registered Faiba Pay, Faiba Mobile and Faiba Money as their trademarks, JTL still maintains that their main forte is mobile data.

Telkom rebranded with the same strategy of being data first and so far it seems to be paying off, like Faiba, Telkom is yet to make any solid move with mobile money despite the fact that the company has been born again for the past three and a half months. We are however adamant that JTL will be announcing a mobile money service at launch which is set to happen within two months away and my bet is on Faiba Money.

Wait, did you hear that? No? I thought I heard people in certain buildings rushing to boardrooms. Hmm.

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