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As seen in the Daily Nation

as told by moshe, tech, Teke Teke

I am not even sure how I hadn’t gotten round to posting this on my blog, but the Daily Nation, Kenyans leading daily newspaper ran a story on the weekend of the GES (US President Barack Obama visited the country to open the summit) on my startup Teke Teke. Flo, my co-founder did a stellar job on the interview and The Daily Nation called us

“an ingenious delivery service”

As seen in The Daily Nation: An Ingenious Delivery Service

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Liquid Telecom Kenya announces move into retail Fibre Market with Hai Waya brand: Firm to connect 500 homes in Mlolongo, 1000 in Runda to its FTTH network

internet, Kenya, the net

At a press conference to outline its last mile strategy for the year 2016, local fibre operator  Liquid Telecom Kenya has announced that it is moving into the retail Fibre To The Home (FTTH) market in Kenya under its Hai ISP brand.
Liquid Telecom Kenya says the service will formally launch in March 2016. In the meantime the firm plans to connect 500 homes in Mlolongo and 1,000 homes in Runda to its FTTH network. Pricing information for Liquid Telecom’s FTTH packages dubbed Hai Waya is available on hai.co.ke.

While a new entrant in the FTTH market to challenge incumbents Zuku, Safaricom and JTL’s Faiba is welcome, Liquid Telecom’s Hai will hardly be a game changer on account on its price tag.
I checked  for pricing on the website and the cheapest package available for my area was 10 mbps (both upload and download) unlimited at KES 3,499/- per month. Dubbed Hai Waya 10, the package includes a free WiFi router. A one off installation fee of between KES 4,500 and KES 15000 will be charged after site survey.

More expensive packages are bundled with ipidiFlix, seemingly the firm’s answer to NetFlix.

Pan African fibre operator Liquid Telecom, that took  over the operations of local outfit Kenya Data Networks (KDN) and created Liquid Telecom Kenya launched Hai, its new ISP brand, last August in Zambia. The firm said it planned  to offer Internet access to households and SMEs under the Hai brand, which is derived from  “I’m alive” in Swahili. Brand launches in Rwanda and Kenya were planned to follow shortly after.

Nic Rudnick, CEO of the Liquid Telecom Group, was quoted as saying at the launch, “We have firmly established  Liquid Telecom as the premier wholesale carrier in Africa. Expanding into the retail market has become a focus for Liquid Telecom and we acquired a number of retail brands as part of our geographic expansion. We will continue to invest heavily in Africa as we believe that every person has a right to be connected.”

Hai was to offer a number of ISP services including a FTTH service that provides 100Mbps download speeds with uncapped packages and a video-on-demand service that brings Hollywood movies, top-rated TV series and kid programmes. A WiFi hotspot service for public places such as markets, universities,and airports was also reported to be on the cards.

Liquid Telecom Kenya reported that it currently operates 4,200 km of fibre in Kenya, connecting 39 out of the 47 counties. The firm’s parent firm Liquid Telecom recently embarked on a 2 year 10,000 km submarine cable project, linking South Africa to the Middle East.

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Safaricom Introduces free monthly M-PESA email statements service

Kenya, mobile banking and m-payments, payments, tech

Safaricom has announced a new service that will allow M-PESA the customers to access monthly statements free of charge via email.
The mobile payments giants claims the service is one of the enhancements made possible on the system following the relocation of the M-PESA servers from Germany to Kenya, last year.
“Every month an average of 30,000 customer visit our Retail Centres specifically seeking to receive printed M-PESA statements, as a prerequisite to accessing credit from financial institutions or for business reconciliation purposes,” said Beatty Mwangi, Safaricom’s Director of Financial Services.
Ms. Mwangi noted that on average a further 9,000 calls are made to the Customer Centre every month
requesting for statements, and listed the new services as illustrative of the transformative
power of placing more control at customers’ disposal.
The development follows the launch of another value added service on the system christened Hakikisha, which allows subscribers to confirm the recipient of their mobile money transfer before it is effected.
With the new statements service M-PESA customers will also have the option to proactively request for a statement, as well as set up automatic monthly statements every day 5th day of the month. The firm says the move is designed to enhance transparency and accountability for M-PESA users.
The service will complement the already option that allows
customers to obtain statements by visiting Safaricom outlets across the country.
To access the statements, customers dial *234# from their handsets and follow prompts to enter the preferred email address they would like their statements sent to.
Customers have an option of accessing one-off statements for three, six or twelve months in one go.
“The launch of this service is consistent with our strategic focus
to make our products and services easily accessible for our customers.
We are leveraging on our continued investment in technology to deliver these statements any time the customer needs them,” said Ms. Mwangi.
M-PESA has over the years grown to become integral to Kenyans economy, with over 22 million customers already registered on the service.

I&M Bank Accounts Now Linked To Airtel Money

tech

Airtel and I&M Bank have formed a partnership to increase access to mobile financial service and financial inclusion. This is in support of the government’s efforts to deepen financial inclusion in the country and promote a cashless economy.
The initiative will link Airtel Money users who are also I&M Bank account holders’ mobile money wallets to their bank accounts. This means that they can “pull” money from their bank accounts into their Airtel Money wallets or “push” money from their Airtel Money wallets to their I&M Bank accounts automatically.
The new Airtel Money service will offer 2 types of real-time funds transfers as described below; transfer of money from I&M Bank Account to Airtel Money (B2C) and transfer funds from Airtel Money to I&M Bank account (C2B).
To enjoy the B2C service, an I&M account holder will be required to dial *458# from their Airtel Money registered number, enter their Login PIN, reply with option number four (Mobile Money), select Airtel Money, enter recipient’s mobile number (registered on Airtel money) , enter amount to send, select the transacting Bank account, confirm the transaction and submit.
The beneficiary will receive Airtel Money credit alert. Your will also receive transaction alert from I&M Bank. This service can also be enjoyed from the I&M mobile banking app, to access I&M Mobile App, download I&M App ( for Android and windows ) from your App store. For Apple (iOS) and Blackberry download I&M Mobile from your respective App Store.
To enjoy C2B services, the customer will go to the Airtel money option, select make payments, pay bill, other, they will then input the I&M Bank pay bill number 542542, enter amount to transfer, their pin then on reference they will enter their 14 digits I&M account number and submit, the customer will then receive a confirmation message from Airtel money confirming the successful transaction. The minimum transaction amount is Ksh. 100 while the maximum amount per single transaction is Ksh. 70,000. Cumulative limit for daily transactions is Ksh. 140,000. To push money to their I&M account from Airtel Money wallet, a customer will be charged a flat fee of Ksh.30 per transaction while pull money from an I&M Bank account to their Airtel Money wallet they will be charged a flat rate of Ksh.35. To sign up for Bank to Airtel Money, Kindly visit any of the I&M Bank Branches.
Other banks linked to Airtel Money are: United Bank of Africa, Equatorial Commercial Bank and Standard Chartered Bank.

East Africa Data Centre announces KES 1BN Expansion

tech

East Africa Data Centre, the only Tier 3 secure electronic data centre in east and central Africa, has today announced a Ksh1bn expansion to meet rack space demand that initially forced it to ration allocations to customers. Unveiling the second and third floors of the data centre, the East Africa Data Centre announced that the centre would now be extended to four floors, totalling 2000 square metres.
The data centre, which now houses Kenya’s Internet Exchange Point, has been credited by the global Internet Society as a key factor in driving down internet prices in Kenya, to among the lowest in Africa. The East Africa Data Centre hosts the Points of Presence for global carriers with international coverage, including Tata, Level3, Seacom, and Liquid Telecom, as well as carriers owning fibre network infrastructure, including Safaricom, JamiiTelcom, Access Kenya, Orange Telkom Kenya Ltd, Wananchi Online, and Frontier Optical Network.
It is further playing a key role in enabling financial and corporate organisations to hold data securely, protecting them in the event of cyber crime and offering 24/7 secure housing for their data and back-ups.
“The East Africa Data Centre has transformed how data traffic is handled in the region. By providing a central point for interconnect services, it has reduced latency, improved data services, reduced costs and made it easier to transfer data across networks,” said Dan Kwach, General Manager East Africa Data Centre.
“By keeping African data in Africa we continue to help reduce the costs of internet access while creating an environment that encourages innovation and entrepreneurial culture in the field of ICT and local businesses,” said Mr Kwach.
Within six months of starting, it had fully sold Phase 1 of the centre’s rack space – which houses the servers holding data – amounting to the entire first floor. It has now opened another 500 sq m floor, which is already 90 per cent occupied, and with the third floor already prepped for occupancy, East Africa Data Centre unveiled plans to expand to the fourth floor immediately, to cater for demand.
“We had to ration the rack space when we were selling the first floor due to huge demand, until we could get the second floor built and operational and the third floor ready to go quickly. The second floor took roughly 8 months, but now we have the space ready, we can move much quicker and customers can buy the amount they want,” said Mr Kwach. The accelerated expansion in EADC’s rack space has benefitted the local engineering and construction services sector, with all of the contractors for the expansion sourced locally. It also comes amid growing concern for data security. In late 2013, Kenya’s Information, Communication and Technology Cabinet Secretary, Fred Matiangi, raised the flag on estimates that the country would lose an estimated KSh 2 billion (about US$23 million) through cyber crime, with the number of cyber attacks detected in Kenyan cyberspace more than doubling last year to 5.4m attacks, compared to 2.6m in 2012. Uganda, which last year reported a surge in economic crimes, up 14.9 per cent, singled out cybercrime, principally in mobile money and Automated Teller Machine (ATM) fraud, as responsible for the loss of about USH1.5bn (Ksh51m), while Bank of Tanzania (BoT) statistics indicate TZS 1.3bn (Ksh69.5) has been stolen across the country through cyber fraud, according to the Kenya Cyber Security Report 2014.
Financial institutions are also introducing potentially vulnerable web and mobile applications, with a recent study that sampled 33 online banking portals finding that only 2 of the 33 portals sampled had adequate online security deployed on their web application. As a result, many financial institutions are now looking into EADC to store their data, reported the Kenya Cyber Security Report 2014.
“Banks and financial institutions are the second largest type of occupant at the East Africa Data Centre, at about 30 per cent. With about 43 banks in Kenya, the demand for highly secure stable environments like ours, for use as disaster recovery, high-availability, or primary sites, has been rising,” said Mr Kwach.
East Africa Data Centre recently signed a collaboration agreement with Teraco Data Environments in South Africa to share synergies between the two Data Centre Operators and improve EADC’s efficiency and maximise on available investment opportunities.

East Africa Data Centre, a carrier-neutral data centre in Nairobi, is the largest in East Africa, offering secure and reliable space for dedicated hosting, interconnect services, collocation, disaster recovery, network-based services, applications and cloud services. A Tier 3 data centre, built to international standards, it is the only purpose-built data centre in East Africa.
East Africa Data Centre is an independent company within The Liquid Telecom Group with a dedicated management team.

Equity officially launches Equitel, claims subscribers hit one million mark

mobile banking and m-payments

micro sim cards

Equity Bank officially launched their payment focused MVNO, Equitel today. Questions still abound over the functioning of the MVNO’s thin sims though. Equitel’s plan to employ thin sim technology has been the subject of litigation over the past year. Incumbent market leader Safaricom has raised questions about the security and legality of the proposed technology. It is not clear whether the thin sims will be able to function on their own or a secondary sim card will be required as a base for them to fit into mobile phone sim slots. Equitel currently issues subscribers with regular sim cards. The MVNO claims to have signed up a  million subscribers pre-launch. The bank is billing it’s MVNO as a new mobile payment and banking platform for its customers that is officially designed to bring to the fore the convergence between mobile and banking services in Kenya.

“The unveiling of this new platform is part of our 30 year journey of promoting financial inclusion. Our aim is to raise the number of Kenyans with access to banking services to 90 percent and above,” said Equity Bank CEO James Mwangi in a press release issued by the bank.

In the press release the bank further stated:

At the same time, the bank unveiled 0764 prefix after hitting one million customers on the 0763 prefix during the pilot phase.

“Equitel is providing the bank with another opportunity to continue our mission of offering inclusive, innovative, customer-focused financial services that transform livelihoods, give dignity and expand opportunities,” said Dr. Mwangi adding on that the company has put up an elaborate plan to further boost financial inclusion that transcends limitation of banking time and location.

The new platform eliminates the need for mobile applications in accessing internet banking as even a simple feature phone will work in a similar manner like a sophisticated smart phone further demystifying financial services.

“Internet banking has been a preserve of a few but now with Equitel this will be a mass market offering. It will enable all customers to conveniently access their bank accounts for 24 hours 7 days a week,” said Dr. Mwangi. The Equitel platform will make banking services more accessible, flexible, convenient and more affordable.

It is also a unique and universal platform that is interoperable with other systems hence users will not only be able to securely send and receive money on the Equitel network but also from other banks and mobile money platforms such as Airtel Money, Orange Money and MPESA.

Equitel, money transfer from one mobile phone or bank account to another within the Equity ecosystem will be done free of charge.

Therefore, Equitel will not only bring full mobility to banking by simplifying the payments and transactions process but will also be key in further reducing the cost of mobile and banking services –enabling greater inclusion for all Kenyans and beyond.

“We will be leveraging on the bank’s presence across the region to roll out Equitel and this is the basis of optimism of attaining a subscriber base of over five million by end of 2015,” Dr. Mwangi added.

Customers can visit any Equity Bank branch countrywide to obtain their SIM cards from a choice of standard size SIM, micro and nano and thin SIM based on their requirements.

“Customers can call 100 on their Equitel line for support from a fully resourced contact centre with customer care representatives who have been fully trained to manage customer enquiries 24/7,” he added.

Equitel is the first platform in Kenya and in Africa to offer a full banking suite without building new mobile infrastructure. Commonly known as a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO), the service combines mobile and banking in a fresh, ground breaking way.

Airtel Africa CEO Christian De Faria lauded Equity Bank on the innovation and said the company was proud to serve as partner operator for the Equitel platform.

“Equitel services are already running on our network and we are delighted to work with Equity Bank to pioneer this innovation in Kenya,” said Airtel Africa CEO Christian De Faria.

According to Dr. Mwangi, Equitel becomes a value addition for Airtel as the latter will provide telecom services including voice, SMSs and data services for the platform.

Additionally, Equitel will further financial inclusion by offering members a range of banking products such as loans, cross boarder transfers, insurance and investment services. Equitel customers can also receive diaspora remittances onto their accounts and access it directly through their mobile phone.

Equitel is available to all Equity Bank account holders and provides a perfect means to enjoy control and freedom of choice. For those who are not members they can easily open an Equity account by dialling *247# on any mobile phone.”

As the bank launched its MVNO, some on Twitter were wagering that Safaricom might release thicker sim cards to ward off the threat of SIM cards.Equity Bank officially launched their payment focused  MVNO Equitel today. Questions still abound over the functioning of the MVNO’s thin sims. Equitel’s plan to employ thin sim  technology has been the subject of litigation over the past year. Incumbent market leader Safaricom raising questions about the security and legality of the proposed technology.  It is not clear whether the thin sims will be able to fucntion on their own or a secondary sim card will be required for them to fit into mobile phone sim slots. Equitel currently issues subscribers with regular sim cards. Equitel currently claims a million subcribers. The bank is billing it’s MVNO as a  new mobile payment and banking platform for its customers –that officially designed  to bring to the fore the convergence between mobile and banking services in Kenya.

“The unveiling of this new platform is part of our 30 year journey of promoting financial inclusion. Our aim is to raise the number of Kenyans with access to banking services to 90 percent and above,” said Equity Bank CEO James Mwangi in a press release issued by the bank.

In the press release the bank further stated:

“At the same time, the bank unveiled 0764 prefix after hitting one million customers on the 0763 prefix during the pilot phase.

“Equitel is providing the bank with another opportunity to continue our mission of offering inclusive, innovative, customer-focused financial services that transform livelihoods, give dignity and expand opportunities,” said Dr. Mwangi adding on that the company has put up an elaborate plan to further boost financial inclusion that transcends limitation of banking time and location.

The new platform eliminates the need for mobile applications in accessing internet banking as even a simple feature phone will work in a similar manner like a sophisticated smart phone further demystifying financial services.

“Internet banking has been a preserve of a few but now with Equitel this will be a mass market offering. It will enable all customers to conveniently access their bank accounts for 24 hours 7 days a week,” said Dr. Mwangi. The Equitel platform will make banking services more accessible, flexible, convenient and more affordable.

It is also a unique and universal platform that is interoperable with other systems hence users will not only be able to securely send and receive money on the Equitel network but also from other banks and mobile money platforms such as Airtel Money, Orange Money and MPESA.

Equitel, money transfer from one mobile phone or bank account to another within the Equity ecosystem will be done free of charge.

Therefore, Equitel will not only bring full mobility to banking by simplifying the payments and transactions process but will also be key in further reducing the cost of mobile and banking services –enabling  greater inclusion for all Kenyans and beyond.

“We will be leveraging on the bank’s presence across the region to roll out Equitel and this is the basis of optimism of attaining a subscriber base of over five million by end of 2015,” Dr. Mwangi added.

Customers can visit any Equity Bank branch countrywide to obtain their SIM cards from a choice of standard size SIM, micro and nano and thin SIM based on their requirements.

“Customers can call 100 on their Equitel line for support from a fully resourced contact centre with customer care representatives who have been fully trained to manage customer enquiries 24/7,” he added.

Equitel is the first platform in Kenya and in Africa to offer a full banking suite without building new mobile infrastructure. Commonly known as a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO), the service combines mobile and banking in a fresh, ground breaking way.

Airtel Africa CEO Christian De Faria lauded Equity Bank on the innovation and said the company was proud to serve as partner operator for the Equitel platform.

“Equitel services are already running on our network and we are delighted to work with Equity Bank to pioneer this innovation in Kenya,” said Airtel Africa CEO Christian De Faria.

According to Dr. Mwangi, Equitel becomes a value addition for Airtel as the latter will provide telecom services including voice, SMSs and data services for the platform.

Additionally, Equitel will further financial inclusion by offering members a range of banking products such as loans, cross boarder transfers, insurance and investment services. Equitel customers can also receive diaspora remittances onto their accounts and access it directly through their mobile phone.

Equitel is available to all Equity Bank account holders and provides a perfect means to enjoy control and freedom of choice. For those who are not members they can easily open an Equity account by dialling *247# on any mobile phone.”

As the bank launched its MVNO, some on Twitter were wagering that Safaricom might release thicker sim cards to ward off the threat of SIM cards.

Nekfeu has the best verse in all hip hop right now!

tech

The third verse from Nekfeu’s smash hit "On Verra" is the stuff of poetic gold.

An English translation from lyricstranslate.com/en/verra-well-see.html is provided below. If you parlez Francaise feel free to improve the translation.

Nos corps fonctionnent à l’envers, on marche avec des têtes
On se sent avec un regard et on joue avec les nerfs
Moi, je parle avec les mains, parfois j’pense avec ma…
Mais je touche avec mes pensées et j’écris avec le cœur
J’en ai…

[ENGLISH]
Our bodies operate in reverse, we walk with heads
We smell with looks and we play on your nerves
Me, I speak with my hands, sometimes I think with my…
But I touch with my thoughts and I write with my heart
Yes I do…

This Hip Hop jam, from the l’entourage/1995 French rapper is definitely the anthem this summer, and probably for many summers to come.

The X Files is back

tech

Folks growing up in Nairobi will no doubt recall watching The X Files on KTN. The dynamic detective duo of the skeptical FBI Special Agent Scully and Special Agent Mulder , the believer, had us at intervals terrified, baffled and fascinated for several seasons. It got many a curious young mind wondering about what was out there. Was there life on other planets? Or were we the only ones in this vast universe? Was the truth really out there?
David Duchovny went to have even more TV success playing the hedonistic writer Hank Moody in the series Californication.
You will also no doubt remember the terrible faux pas that was fishermen on a beach in Ivory Coast speaking in Swahili (looking at you FOX).
No doubt all will be forgiven in January next year when the show that last aired in 2002, makes a comeback. The X Files Reboot is returning to FOX for six episodes and scenes from the revival leaked onto the internet today. FOX will be re-airing the original series ahead of its return.
I have reservations about these kinds of reprises. V, another venerable childhood favorite was turned into a steaming pile of dung in its second reincarnation on ABC. An exception will however be made for Scully and Mulder. I expect the new X-Files not to suck. The original series will probably still remain the greatest sci fi horror drama ever made though.
Which reminds me, Capital FM ran a X-Files parody for several years that was funny as hell. Does anyone remember the name of the radio series? Sharon? CK? Anyone?

Uber set to start accepting cash, mobile payments in Kenya

tech

It’s 2 am on Saturday morning and you are leaving the rave somwhere in Nairobi’s Westlands. You fish out your phone, and attempt to request an Uber. "Card rejected" reads the response. The bank just stood in the way of your and your money. Your card has been rejected. And of course Uber does not take Mpesa payments.

"Why couldn’t Uber just have talked to Safaricom and got them to implement an Mpesa API?" You think to yourself. "Or why couldn’t Uber just talk the banks into making card payments easier? It’s a B2B issue."

If you are reading this in Kenya, your bank sucks.
It is not news to you. You know it. They know it. They know you know it. And your Mpesa agent knows it.

Card payments are one aspect where Kenyan banks are just plain pathetic. It gets even worse when you try to use your card to pay for an Uber.The terrible state of card payments in Kenya has no doubt held back the growth of the online taxi hailing service since it launched in Kenya last year.

Well, Uber announced this week that they are testing cash and mobile payments.
Last month Uber start accepting cash in the Indian city of Hyderabad. In April Uber started accepting cash payments for the first time for it’s rickshaw hailing service in another Indian market, Delhi.

You will now be able to pay cash for your ride. You may also pay through mobile money services such as MPesa and Airtel Money. Under the plan, each Uber driver will have an individual Lipa Na Mpesa till number or Airtel Money account.

Local competitors such as Rocket Internet backed Easy Taxi and Mara Moja already accept cash and mobile payments.

Big Box or Big Hoax? If you are thinking of purchasing the Safaricom Big Box this weekend, don’t

tech

If you are thinking of purchasing the Safaricom Big Box this weekend, don’t.

I arrived home excited with my shiny new Safaricom Big Box a couple of weeks ago. At the Safaricom shop I had inquired about antennas, and the set top box’s DVB-T2 functionality. I was concerned specifically about it’s ability to work with my building’s common antenna. As is often the case, I soon realized I had been worried about the wrong thing altogether.

Straight out of the box, the Big Box picked up all the available digital channels. The initial setup was pretty straight forward to my pleasant surprise. After connecting the box to the common antenna, and an initial scan, I now had digital TV. I could access channels carried on Signet, free to air PANG , ADN and even a couple of Bamba channels. Nice. I could watch DW and Al Jazeera courtesy of Bamba. I had access to the local Big 3, Citizen, NTV and KTN. So far, so good.

Then came the hard bit. Connecting to the Internet.

Of course if I had wanted to watch TV, I could just have copped a Bamba TV set top box. What drew me to the Big Box, was internet access, and the prospect of free YouTube.

I selected YouTube from the menu, and was somewhat disappointed to find that there was no YouTube app. What was there was a browser window that linked to YouTube.com. I could live with that, I thought.

And there it was. Glorious YouTube. For a whole 5 minutes. Then it all took a turn for the worse. I attempted to view a video. The video would not load. I got an network connectivity failure error instead. A second attempt failed. I tried to connect to the Internet from the default Android browser. This failed too.

I contacted Safaricom’s fairly responsive Twitter customer care team. I received a call a little later from a Safaricom customer care representative. I was advised to reset the box. I dutifully did so, but then nothing. I was still unable to connect to YouTube. Or to the Internet for that matter.
I complained to customer care again. This time after a long phone conversation I was asked to go to “Settings” and provide the rep with the Big Box’s IP address. I was then advised to disconnect from 3G/4G and reconnect. I had been assigned a new IP address.

I was able to connect to the Internet for a full 15 minutes. After that my connection went to shit. I was unable to connect to the Internet at all.

I contacted customer care a third time. This was quickly turning into some sort of terrible joke.

In the 18 days since, I have spoken to customer care on a dozen different occasions. To my dismay, I have learnt what anyone who has dealt with Safaricom’s customer care on a few occasions knows. Safaricom customer care have a script. Switch off the box, switch it back on. Disconnect from 3G. Switch to wired. Turn off the box. Turn it back on. We will escalate with our network team and revert. Meaningless platitudes. Rarely does anything get resolved. It’s good PR, but little more.

Safaricom’s 3G network is excellent in my area. I have gotten speeds of upto 245KBps on a phone that I had placed on top of the set top box. So there was no weird network vortex or “dark spot” where I had positioned the Big Box. So why couldn’t I connect to the Internet, I kept asking.

A visit to the Safaricom Shop I had purchased the box from established that my line was yet to be registered. I had provided ID when I purchased the box, and filled and signed a registration form. The line had not been registered two weeks on. There was also an issue with the tariff I was on, I was informed. Taking two weeks to register a line was unacceptable they concurred. I was given 650 MB of data to get me through the night, as my issues were being resolved.

The fact that Safaricom’s customer care hadn’t realized in 2 weeks of calls that my Big Box line was not registered is in itself perplexing. Safaricom’s right hand didn’t seem to know what it’s left hand was doing. Or simply didn’t care.

The situation had not improved a week later, and I visited the store again. My line had not yet been registered. This time I ensured that they had registered the line while I was in store. I also confirmed that the 6GB bundle I had purchased along with the box was intact.

I went back home and finally after 16 days, a dozen calls to customer care and 3 visits to the Safaricom store where I bought the box, I was able to connect to the internet.

But wait there is more.

I managed to watch just the one video. Attempts to connect to the device’s hot spot from my laptop failed. I switched off the Big Box and reconnected to Safaricom’s 3G network again. Finally I was able to connect to the Internet from my laptop via the Big Box’s hot spot. A few minutes later I ran into a new, annoying hurdle. Safaricom’s weird traffic shaping seemed to disconnect me from the 3G network once my usage hit 100 MB or so. I then had to disconnect and reconnect to the network so I that I could be assigned a new IP. This involved switching off the box on occasion and disrupting any TV viewing in the living room. For folks that are offering free YouTube, the 100MB cap is bizarre. How many YouTube videos are those?

I wonder what exactly could be gained by cutting off access for people who are paying for their internet by the megabyte once they hit a certain cap. I would be okay with Safaricom limiting access to free YouTube. But limiting access to my email on a bundle I paid for is infuriating.

Safaricom sells the Big Box as a smart media consumption device with great internet connectivity and free YouTube for the first three months.

What you do get with the Safaricom Big Box is a DVB -T2 set top box with PVR functionality. The PVR functionality means you can record TV shows and view them later. The box also comes with built in DLNA support so you can connect to your UPnP media server, though I am yet to test this.

The TV watching experience is not without annoyances. Blinking message envelopes keep popping up on your screen. You will have to go to the menu, leaving your enjoyable Mexican telenovella, to access these cryptic messages. The messages themselves read like AT commands, and they typically mean nothing to you. So why would anyone want to be notified of AT commands being sent to their device again, Safaricom?

The box itself is pretty standard set top box/mini PC fare. It runs Android 4.x. There is no information in the settings on the exact version of Android it is running or the kernel. The box comes with 1 GB of RAM and 4GB of internal storage. These specs read like those of the average Alcatel One Touch phone. It has an SD card slot if you need extra storage. OTG works great on the device so you could just plug in a flash disk or hard disk via the single USB port. The SIM card is internal meaning you are locked to Safaricom’s network.

It works fine as a router too. But then, so does your stock Android handset.

I have since learnt that I had purchased The Big Box the day after it’s launch. I have been punished accordingly for that mistake. It has been one of the most frustrating experiences I have ever had with any device.

The Big Box looks increasingly like a hurried product. There are so many kinks, network or otherwise, that are yet to be worked out. You are supposed to dial *422# to check your bundle balance but I am yet to come across a dialer on the device. Calls to the 422 customer care number do not go through. I doubt that any Safaricom engineers actually took the box home with them for testing. I find the internet connectivity bits particularly irksome.

Zuku and company need not fret it seems. Judging from my experience, Safaricom isn’t about to eat anyone’s lunch.