3 Reasons Why Safaricom Home’s Internet Fair Usage Policy (FUP) Adds Up.

What Started It All?

On the 8th of February 2021, which is just under a month ago, Safaricom’s fiber to the home (FTTH) Internet offering, Safaricom Home, announced that it had increased speeds whilst maintaining the same prices, as below:

Safaricom Home Internet Speeds & Rates – February 2021

This in itself was initially quite impressive given that Safaricom had also bumped the speeds up last year, at no additional cost. However, prima facie, the new speeds look more or less in-line with what competing brands currently offer although, as we all know, what is marketed and what you actually get are not always necessarily the same thing when it comes to home Internet – trust me!

Social Media Goes Ballistic On Safaricom Home’s FUP!

What happened next may have been quite unexpected. Almost overnight, a good number of blog posts and social media posts emerged that pointed out that at the same time Safaricom was increasing speeds from the 1st March 2021, it was also introducing a new fair usage policy or FUP that would cap bandwidth usage from 500GB to 1TB per month for their packages, whilst reducing speeds from 1 Mbps to 3 Mbps. This naturally led to a massive uproar on social media from existing customers who perceived the action as a sort of a ‘switch and bait’ move since the majority of them expect a truly unlimited Internet service.

Putting Internet Home Things Into Perspective.

To put everything in perspective, it’s important to delve deeper into the facts and not just sheer speculation and Internet hyperbole where Safaricom Home is concerned. Going by the latest Internet statistics from the Communications Authority of Kenya, as of Q1 2020 – 2021 covering the period July 2020 to September 2020, Safaricom Home is the largest home Internet service with a market share of 35.6% and 229,406 subscribers:

Communications Authority of Kenya Sector Statistics: Q1 2020 – 2021 for July 2020 to September 2021 for Fixed Data Subscriptions

If we can assume that each Safaricom Home Internet subscription is used by around 5 people at any given time as expected in a typical Kenyan home, which means that Safaricom has over 1 million users on the service. This is a decent number that has grown substantially during the past year since working from home or WFH became a mainstream thing in Kenya and globally due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Therefore, it’s understandable that many Safaricom Home Internet users vented on social media when they heard about the new FUP that could potentially cripple their Internet access given that it has become indispensable for work, school, and play during the pandemic. Home Internet in Kenya and globally has become an essential part of modern living across so many use cases that we can longer live without it. Think about that for a second. People had a right to be upset about the FUP.

Seriously, What Really Is A Fair Usage Policy or FUP?

In the context of Safaricom Home, it’s really important to fully understand what FUPs are and why this was needed at this time and should not come as a surprise at all. An FUP is what most Internet Service Providers (ISPs) globally use to ensure everyone has equal access to high-speed internet.

Home Internet is normally a shared and not a dedicated Internet connection so during peak usage hours speeds can be compromised. FUPs exist to ensure that no single home can dominate the shared Internet for all connected homes. It’s as simple as that, a way to maintain high-quality Internet for all home customers on the service. There have been many debates and concerns about Safaricom’s actions on the home Internet FUPs. That being said, it’s important to understand the key drivers behind these actions:

Reason 1: Great Internet At All Times For All Home Users.

The first reason for doing this is that some users of Safaricom Home have been reselling the service to other users which violates the terms of service and ultimately compromises the quality of Internet for their home Internet subscribers. Introducing the FUP is one of the ways Safaricom can manage this issue by then throttling the speeds for subscribers who are clearly exceeding what should be typical or average subscriber usage of the Internet service.

Reason 2: A Data-Driven Business Decision On Data Capping.

The second thing is that Safaricom did the data traffic analysis and found that the average home usually does not exceed 300 GB of data usage on their home Internet service per month. What this implies is that a data cap of 500GB is actually almost twice what the average home Internet subscriber would use in a month meaning that for most subscribers that is sufficient headroom.

Reason 3: Data Capping Does NOT Stop Your Internet.

The third and final thing is that the data cap means that even if you do exceed your monthly data allocation as a Safaricom Home Internet subscriber, you still have Internet access but it will be significantly slower for the rest of the month. Obviously, this is not an ideal scenario for most subscribers and it effectively hobbles your internet but you are not completely cut-off for the period, it’s just slower.

Is Safaricom’s FUP Really A Big Deal?

As much as Safaricom Home’s FUP has caused so much furor even before it was implemented, one thing you have to commend Safaricom for is that they came out transparently about this proposed controversial action. They did not hide the fact that they did intend to introduce the FUP given that they had obviously seen some disturbing trends on their network for unsanctioned high Internet usage by resellers.

At the same time, we also know that other home Internet service providers in Kenya also have FUPs of their own although many are obscure in how they are applied or enforced if you go on their websites. FUPs are really nothing new and the only thing that has changed is that we are now more aware of them than ever before thanks to Safaricom.

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