Kenya – low-cost ISP Poa! Internet pockets $28 million in funding to expand coverage across the country


There is a small group of African ISPs that do the “heavy lifting” of catering to low-income customers. poah! Internet is one of them and it just lifted $28 million to increase its size. Russell Southwood talked to the CEO Andy Hallsall what the company has planned and the current state of the market.

When the Covid-19 hits poa! The Internet was coming out to raise its next round of funding. Inevitably, he had to lower his ambitions on the main period of the pandemic: “We are not growing as fast as before Covid. We had to control CAPEX expenses and not burn out early. It’s a bit frustrating. ” .”

The good news is that existing customers are using a lot more data, going from 160GB per month before Covid to 220GB during Covid. Even better, these increased volumes have continued: “It only goes one way.”

Its current footprint consists of semi-informal settlements in Nairobi and its surroundings, the latest being Donholm, Jogoo Road and Umoja. Currently, it reaches 200,000 homes with approximately 750,000 people. His list of places for further expansion are more communities in Nairobi and other urban areas like Mombasa and other cities. Once this part of the expansion is complete, it will look into other African countries.

Its main service is residential residential broadband, for which it has 12,000 customers. But it all started with Wi-Fi hotspots and they continue to play an important role as a customer pipeline. There are currently 50,000 hot-spot customers. Its products are aimed at the lowest incomes, the “low-end middle class”. Its customers are relatively young (in their twenties), still single or living with family, and relatively tech-savvy.


Any registered customer can get 100MB of free data per day: “We want to encourage people to consume a lot of data. Currently, most people do not have fiber to their homes and their experience is to use data expensive 4G mobile plans. . Using the Internet means consuming more data than you would with mobile plans.” This is why the average data usage per Safaricom mobile clients are in the hundreds of MBs rather than GBs.

According to Halsall, poa! Internet customers “use the Internet like people do elsewhere. They stream movies, educate their children, make Zoom calls, all those sorts of things. Their profile is very similar to someone in California. The volume driver downloads movies and YouTube. These activities are simply not viable on 4G mobile.”

The data market in Kenya continues to evolve. Volume operators are Safaricom and Airtel. The former has more than 16 million mobile data subscribers and continues to dominate the market. But he and most home fiber providers (e.g. JTL’s Faiba and Zuku) are focused on high-end neighborhoods and fiber rollouts and footprint expansion have slowed: “Everyone is did well with Covid-19.” These increased volumes caused wholesale bandwidth prices to drop by approximately 5-10%.

The trigger for its funding process was winning an innovation challenge organized by Africa 50, which put it in its investment pipeline. He has now lifted $28 million to finance its expansion plans.

The main takeaway is that home fiber is starting to grow rapidly: “Fiber is now passing between 0.5 and 0.75 million homes and the total market could be between 1 and 1.5 million homes. There’s 10 million that won’t get fiber (thanks to existing investment choices). Those are the communities we’re trying to connect. 4G/.5G won’t be used for streaming and that’s where we intervene.

In short

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