For a company that I believe has really good offers, Airtel Kenya gets a lot of things wrong. And I’ve written extensively about them for a long time now complaining about different things. I still don’t understand why they never get even the best of ideas right from the get-go. Is it because they don’t understand the Kenyan market as it is the Indian HQ that makes decisions? Is it because they don’t care?

If you haven’t seen their latest extensive campaign with many digital influencers, then let me fill you in: Airtel is pushing a new MiFi router for your home. It is called ‘Airtel Smart Home‘. It is big, constantly needs a direct power source, uses 4G networks, and  comes with it’s own SIM card and its own bundles. Actually here it is:

Airtel Kenya Smart Home 4G Mifi

 

You know the name Smart Home suggests a Fibre Connection with unlimited data. This is neither. 

I wish Airtel thought this through before launch because of a couple of reasons:

  • This thing is huge (Airtel claims it is portable)
  • It costs Ksh. 7,499 to get one
  • It has to constantly stay plugged in
  • You have to buy bundles for it: Ksh. 2000 – 40GB, Ksh. 3000 – 70GB and Ksh. 4000 – 100GB. There’s no ‘Unlimited Data’ option.
  • It relies on Airtel’s 4G network: so you have to live in an area where Airtel 4G is available, and you also have to endure the times when the Airtel network sucks.

You may argue, well this is a good solution for people who want home internet, and cannot afford crazy expensive bundles from Safaricom and don’t have access to Home Fibre solutions like Zuku or Safaricom Home. It isn’t. One, the fact that it is not something you can move around with, yet costs almost Ksh. 8,000 makes it a crazy buy. You’ll need to buy more bundles for your phone when you’re out of the house/office.

Two, yes the bundles are cheaper, but why not allow people to buy these cheaper bundles straight from their existing phones? Why do I have to buy an expensive router to access cheaper bundles? Yet the router does the same thing my phone can do by creating a hotspot? And please don’t say the router supports 32 users while a phone supports 8 users… when are you ever 32 people at your home?

I was thinking of something funny: I walk to an Airtel shop and buy this router. So I spend over 7k, get the 25GB free data + buy a 70GB package for 3k, then I have home internet. The total amount spent there is Ksh. 10,500. Then I realise I need to buy more data while I am out of the house, so I buy one of Airtel’s UnlimiNet bundles for my phone at Ksh. 2,000. That’s a total of Ksh. 12500 for constant internet. Wow. It is even easier getting a monthly bundle on your phone and just tether it when at home…

Home Internet Router – Ksh. 7,500 70GB – Ksh. 3,000
Out-of-home Internet Your Phone UnlimiNet – Ksh. 2000
Total Ksh. 12,500

….but two/three months down, I realise Faiba 4G is now in my area: their modem is cheaper, portable and has long battery life, plus you can if your phone supports the network, use the SIM card from your phone and buy even cheaper bundles than Airtel’s without needing an expensive and huge thing. What do I do then? I would have to do away with Airtel’s huge thing and switch. And stay with a big thing doing nothing in the house.

Even if you are to use the router for months, the total cost of Ksh. 5000 per month for 70GB Home Internet and UnlimiNet 2000 is still high. You can still get better offers if you decided to just buy internet for your phone on either Safaricom, Airtel, Telkom, or still on Faiba. Also, 70GB is nothing.

Airtel is pushing a wrong product for the Kenyan market. I would rather they had these cheap bundles accessible to all Airtel users in 4G areas, and then gave people who would want one, a cheaper, smaller MiFi router the same way Faiba 4G is doing. They need not even have a MiFi because all 4G phones in the country support Airtel 4G, unlike with Faiba. I don’t think it makes any sense to waste money buying something that will become obsolete in a few months. This is just dumb.