Safaricom PLC will on Friday 26th March 2021 launch the first fifth-generation (5G) mobile internet services in Kenya
Safaricom in partnership with Nokia Corporation and Huawei Technologies will be the first operator in East Africa to launch 5G services and will be showcasing the capabilities of the network.
Telco on Thursday revealed that it was cleared by the Communications Authority as early as 2020 to launch the 5G technology that will be targeting major urban centres.
Safaricom 5G infrastructure was being built by the Chinese firm, Huawei Technologies despite US warnings in 2020 to countries against including Huawei in their 5G rollouts, citing that China may use that as a security breach.
Safaricom previously announced its intentions to use Huawei as the supplier for the 5G rollout with its chairman Michael Joseph saying at the time that they would follow guidelines from their two main shareholders, South Africa’s Vodacom and Britain’s Vodafone.
The firm last year completed testing and trials for the upgraded network as the company seeks to capitalise on the rising mobile Internet use in the country,
The service will be available in Nairobi and greater western Kenya including Kisumu, Kisii and Bungoma, which routinely witness increased data traffic.
Safaricom subscribers who want to use the service will need to acquire new handsets that are compatible with 5G before they can enjoy the superfast Internet, which offers much faster data download and upload speeds that ultimately ease network congestion.
The 5G launch will follow the December 2015 unveiling of the 4G network, which has helped Safaricom grow its revenues from data to Sh49.6 billion last year from Sh17.9 billion in 2015.
Kenya had 58.9 million mobile subscribers in the quarter ended September. Of those users, around 42.8 million had mobile data subscriptions, with Safaricom enjoying dominance in this segment.
Huawei’s Chipmaker Qualcomm has indicated that 5G could achieve browsing and download speeds about 10 to 20 times faster than those offered by 4G. That would allow a consumer to download a high-definition film in a minute or so. Mobile gamers will also notice less delay – or latency – when pressing a button on a controller and seeing the effect on screen. Similarly, mobile videos should be near instantaneous and glitch-free while video calls would become clearer and less jerky under the 5G network.
This is the market that Safaricom is eyeing in the firm’s quest to increase sales from its data division.
Competition in this space is growing with Jamii Telecom being the latest to launch the 4G proposition, offering data at prices relatively cheaper than what is in the market.
Data from the Communications Authority of Kenya shows that Safaricom grew its mobile subscriptions 4.2 percent to 38.144 million in the three months ended September. Safaricom’s net profit for the six months through September fell by 6 percent to Sh33.06 billion.