With fibre optic cables limited to urban areas, cybercafes in rural Kenya have turned to modems for internet connection.
The wireless modems sold by various telecoms in the East African nation are offering the small internet points located in market centers a lifeline as a good number of people seek their services.
Some of the cybercafes have a modem for each computer while others share from one machine to another depending on customer flow.
"This is the only way we can remain in business. We cannot wait until the telecoms bring fibre optic cables or other forms of fixed internet connection this side. We have to survive because there is need for our services," Martin Waswa, who runs a small cybercafe at a market center in Busia, told Xinhua on phone on Thursday.
The 34-year-old runs his cybercafe alongside a typing, photocopying and printing business.
"I have three computers but I use only two for browsing the internet, the other one for typesetting work. Each of the two computers has a modem," said Waswa, who is among dozens of cybercafe operators in Kenya who use modems.
Waswa said he was encouraged to use the wireless modems because people were asking for internet services.
"Initially I was only offering typesetting services but I would get many inquires about internet services. It is then that I added the two machines, and bought the modems," he said, adding he had to use modems because of unavailability of the other forms of faster internet connections.
Besides, Waswa found the modems cheaper as he was not asked to pay set-up fees and other charges that come with the fixed internet connections.
"I bought the two modems at 22.5 U.S. dollars each. It is now about a year since I started using them. They have helped me get extra business and customers that I did not have," he said.
Waswa normally connects the gadgets that he loads with airtime and buys data bundles whenever a customer pops in.
"I connect, record the time he starts browsing and when he stops, I disconnect. I charge them 0.01 dollars per minute. This is double what many cybercafs in urban areas charge," he said, adding that he has no competition at the market center.
However, his customers have to do with numerous challenges that come with using modems. Many times the internet connection is slower and erratic, and they cannot download or send bulk documents.
"If I had a choice, I would not go to the modem cybercafes because you can barely do anything meaningful, but it is all we have in these areas," said Vincent Bwire, a secondary school teacher in Busia.
The business education teacher visits the cybercafes to read, send emails and do research.
"I do not encounter problems reading emails, but when it comes to downloading files, modems are a mess. One ends up spending a lot of money. Sometimes even the cybercafe operator does not buy enough data bundles, which is inconveniencing," said Bwire.
Bernard Moina, an agricultural officer based in Kitale in Rift Valley, also said he uses a modem cybercafe because there is no alternative.
"If I have to use a cybercafe with a fixed line connection, then I would have to travel for about 40 km to the town center," Moina said.
According to the Communication Authority of Kenya, as of March, there are 69,377 fibre optic internet subscriptions in the East African nation. Mobile internet, where wireless modems lie, leads with 13.3 million subscriptions.
Fibre optic and other forms of fixed internet connections are limited in rural areas, but there are efforts to spread them across the country. Enditem