Safaricom big box review

Review of the Safaricom Big Box

Kenya is a member state of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) which is an intergovernmental public-private organization that works to improve telecommunication infrastructure in the developing world and also coordinates the use of radio spectrum.

The Kenyan government signed the ITU Geneva 2006 (GE06) Agreement in which it agreed to an analog switch-off date of June 2015.  The switch to digital transmission was meant to benefit every stakeholder including consumers as it provides much better quality services like the better picture and sound quality with less interference, more choice of content as digital signals use much less bandwidth and so much more channels can be viewed.

The Kenyan government signed the ITU Geneva 2006 (GE06) Agreement in which it agreed to an analog switch-off date of June 2015.  The switch to digital transmission was meant to benefit every stakeholder including consumers as it provides much better quality services like the better picture and sound quality with less interference, more choice of content as digital signals use much less bandwidth and so much more channels can be viewed.

The switch to digital transmission was meant to benefit every stakeholder including consumers as it provides much better quality services like the better picture and sound quality with less interference, more choice of content as digital signals use much less bandwidth and so much more channels can be viewed.

The Kenyan government signed the ITU Geneva 2006 (GE06) Agreement in which it agreed to an analog switch-off date of June 2015.  The switch to digital transmission was meant to benefit every stakeholder including consumers as it provides much better quality services like the better picture and sound quality with less interference, more choice of content as digital signals use much less bandwidth and so much more channels can be viewed.

With this digital migration came the need to purchase set-top boxes that received and transmit digital content so there was an influx of set-top boxes in the Kenyan market. Most of them were free to air while a few offered pay-tv services to consumers. With such high demands came cheap set-top boxes that were not really of good quality.

Safaricom, being the biggest telecommunication company in the country decided to meet the demand of quality and affordable entertainment through a set-top box that gives the consumer much more than free to air content and the set-top box was dubbed ‘the big box’

The Safaricom Big Box is a set-top box with internet capabilities. The internet is accessible through the WIFI tethering embedded on the Big Box which can accommodate up to ten users or ten devices with capabilities of up to 4G and this allows one to access online content and personalized entertainment in the form of music, online games and news through the television giving the user more options and freedom of choose. As of viewers, they can access free to air television channels and more than fifty radio channels.

Being a device with internet access, the Big Box runs on the Android platform and it has a Random-access memory (RAM) of 1 GB and an internal storage of 4 GB allowing you to install applications onto the set-top box. The internal storage is however expandable up to 32 GB using a micro SD card. One can also view pictures, videos and listen to music stored in the micro SD card as the set-top box comes installed with the media player application which enables it to access all media content on the SD card.

The set-top box also comes with a remote control to help a user navigate through the User Interface (UI) though many users have found that the remote control is difficult to use. An alternative to the remote control is buying a mouse which works well with the Big Box and is easier to use.

 

The big Box had an initial price of ksh 9,999 when it was introduced to the Kenyan market. This was deemed by many Kenyans as very expensive as most set-top boxes in the market were retailing for about ksh 3,500 and internet access has become easier and cheaper for the most middle-class family. These factors led to a slow uptake of the Safaricom’s Big Box but after consultations, the firm had to make adjustments and brought the price down to ksh 4,999. This coupled with the option of hire purchase has had a positive effect on sales. Apart from hire purchase and cash, one can also use bonga points to buy the device.

Upon the purchase of The Big Box, one is required to have his or her identification card or passport so that the Bid Box is registered in their name as it comes with a Subscriber Identity Module {SIM} card. It is through this card’s number where one will access the internet from and receive information from the service provider: Safaricom. At the point of purchase, the device is set up by the sales agents to ensure that it is ready for use. If you own a standard aerial then the set-top box is a plug and play device, no further installation or configuration is required. If you wish to be assisted with the home set up then you will have to part with some cash for the services.

You can purchase the device without bundles giving you access to only the free to air services but when you buy it with data bundles, you will get 3 GB free internet valid for thirty days. Upon depletion, you can buy more data bundles in various ways which include:

  • By dialing *422# from a mobile phone, choose bigbox option and you will be prompted to choose a data bundle that suits you.
  • Online through any device that has internet access using the link: safaricom.com/bundles.com and follow the instructions.
  • Using MPESA. This will require you to have the set top’s number at hand and pay for it through the mobile money.
  • Using the decoder. Navigate to the ‘my account’ section and buy bundles from there.
  • By Sambaza internet. One can transfer internet bundles directly to the set-top box although one can sambaza a maximum of 20mbs in a day which will not be of much help for browsing or online entertainment of any kind.

The only challenge faced by consumers is that the bundles purchased have a validity of 30 days after which they expire even if they are not used. They cannot be rolled over to the next month thus leaving consumers with the feeling of being micromanaged and arm twisted to spend after every thirty days.

The Big Box is a unique product in the market but its timing might have been ill-advised as one can easily get a cheaper set-top box and purchase cheaper and unlimited internet from other companies. Even Safaricom as a company is offering internet services separately. The uptake is slower than projected because it is deemed to be too expensive for the middle class to afford and too mediocre for the upper class in the society to even think of as there are better products in the market offering premium services.