Safaricom enters TV market with ‘The BigBox’ decoder

Big Box

Telecommunication solutions provider Safaricom has launched a decoder that will enable access to TV content and the internet.

CEO Bob Collymore said ‘The BigBox’ will serve as a Wi-Fi hotspot connecting up to 10 users and support data-heavy applications.

“It will give you access to HD TV Channels and allow you to watch content through online video services like YouTube,” Collymore said during the launch at Sarit Centre on Friday.

The decoder’s first payment option will see subscribers pay an initial cost of Sh4,999 following by six Sh999 monthly installments.

The Big Box will have a discounted price for its data:

Price Bundles Validity
Kshs. 999 6 GB 30 days
Kshs. 1,500 10 GB 30 days
Kshs. 2,000 20 GB 30 days
Kshs. 4,000 50 GB 30 days

Users can buy the bundles for the decoder in various ways:

  • Dialing *422# from their mobile phones and entering the decoder number after which they’ll be prompted to select their preferred bundle.
  • Using M-PESA . This uses the *422# USSD. Dial it from the mobile phone number used to register the decoder upon purchase, enter the decoder number, select the preferred data bundle, enter the PIN and you’ll get the relevant notifications
  • Online purchase. Through your computer, smartphone or tablet, will still work
  • Sambaza. We are not so sure how this one is supposed to work since Safaricom has capped data bundle sambaza to just 20 MB and surely 20 MB can never be enough on a media streaming box. Anyway, you can sambaza data bundles to your Box decoder using your primary line i.e. line used to register it. However, it is not possible to sambaza the Big Box’s data to your other devices.
  • Directly from the Box decoder itself. From the decoder’s internet home page, select the ‘My Account’ icon on the applications menu, go to TV option and choose preferred data bundle.

The Big Box decoder is available throughout the country in all Safaricom shops.

“This package includes access to free-to-air TV stations and an allocation of up to 6GB a month in data bundles in addition to free YouTube viewing,” Collymore said.

The second option of a one-off fee of Sh9,999 allows access to free-to-air channels and up to 6GB in data bundles for a month and free YouTube access.

Subscribers who choose this option can also buy bundles of up to 50GB for Sh4,000.

Safaricom said customers will be able to top up their balances by buying monthly bundles using airtime or M-Pesa, on predefined USSD and WAP interfaces.

Collymore said the decoder will allow subscribers to leverage extensively on the 3G and 4G networks to access content.

“Technology has influenced our day-to-day interactions as well as how we consume content. This will make it easier for consumers to embrace the concept of edutainment and using internet to meet their needs,” he said.

The decoder which will be available in all major cities countrywide makes Safaricom the first telcom to venture into the TV business.

The company intends to reach the estimated 2.4 million households out of 3.2 million that have access to digital TV but are not using any of the set boxes available on the market.

“We have applied to the CA for a broadcasting license that will enable us to develop and host more content,” Safaricom said.

Speaking during the release of the company’s financial results on Thursday, he said the decoder “distributes the superfast connectivity via Wi-Fi to any existing Wi-Fi enabled devices”.

He further announced the distribution of the 4G network, currently available in Nairobi and Mombasa only, to 13 towns and cities around the country by the end of the 2015 calendar year.


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