Safaricom leads East Africa in rolling out 5G network for commercial use

Kenya’s mobile giant Safaricom has launched its 5G high-speed internet service, becoming the first company to deploy the technology commercially in East Africa.

The firm will start by offering Wi-Fi subscriptions in a bid to win a greater slice of fixed data market.

The telco has deployed equipment from Nokia and Huawei to power its 5G network.

Safaricom CEO Peter Ndegwa said 5G is key in provision of enhanced economic development and delivery of services.

” 5G is critical in delivering new solutions that will address economic development, healthcare, manufacturing, infrastructure and even delivery of government services,” he said Safaricom CEO Peter Ndegwa during the of  super fast network.

Safaricom is part-owned by South Africa’s Vodacom and Britain’s Vodafone.

Safaricom controls about 65 per cent of the mobile data market, but just a third of the fixed data market, according to data from the Communications Authority of Kenya.

Besides the Wi-Fi market opportunity, the initial focus on 5G Wi-Fi rather than mobile is because there are still relatively few 5G-compatible devices in Kenya, the company said.

Mr Ndegwa noted that out of about 27 million smartphones in use in Kenya, only about 200,000 are 5G-compatible because of the high costs of such devices.

But prices are coming down quickly and companies such as Safaricom are expanding their financing models which should expand access, he said at the launch.

Customers with compatible phones would however be able to use the network soon, the company said, when it starts selling 5G data packages.

The firm has 35 active 5G sites in Nairobi and other major cities and it plans to increase that number to 200 by March next year. It started testing the network last year.

The United States government has urged countries not to include Huawei in their 5G plans, citing security concerns which Huawei has denied.



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