Kenya’s leading telecoms operators, Safaricom has launch 5G technology trials for its customers in that country.
The trial, which is for both individual and enterprise customers in Nairobi, Kisumu, Kisii and Kakamega, makes Safaricom the first telco to launch 5G in the Eastern Africa region, and the third in Africa as a whole.
The first two were Vodacom and MTN, both of which unveiled their 5G networks in South Africa last year.
As part of its trial, Safaricom plans to expand to more than 150 5G sites across nine towns over the next 12 months.
The primary objective during the trial period will be to ensure customers can enjoy speeds of up to 700 Megabits per second (Mbps), with plans to offer more than 1,000 Mbps in the coming months.
Safaricom selected Nokia and Huawei as the two technology partners for the roll-out of its 5G network.
It stated clearly that for mobile internet customers, the service will be available on only select 5G smartphones from Samsung, Huawei and Nokia.
The company has seen web data revenue grow more than three times over the past five years from US$160m in 2015 when it launched its 4G network to US$450m last year.
CEO of Safaricom, Peter Ndegwa was quoted as saying the launch marks a major milestone for Kenya, adding that with 5G, “we aim to empower our customers with super-fast internet at work, at home and when on the move, supplementing our growing fibre network. At Safaricom, we are proud to be the first in the country and the region to bring this latest innovation to both our retail and enterprise customers empowering them to start exploring new opportunities that 5G provides.”
5G can support up to 1 million connected devices per square kilometre compared to 4G which can only support up to 100,000 connected devices in a similar area. This makes 5G suitable for providing super-fast internet speeds in high-density areas and for linking thousands of connected devices such as in manufacturing and supply chain management for businesses.
While Safaricom hasn’t mentioned the data plan prices, 5G data plans are expected to be much more expensive compared to 4G, raising the question of affordability for over 38 million internet subscribers in Kenya.
Meanwhile, even though Ghana is touted as one of the leading telecoms and technology hubs in Africa, operators in the country are yet to see the full potential of 4G, with two out of four of them not even having 4G networks because they can’t afford it.
But recently the regulator announced steps towards a spectrum unification policy that promises to propel operators into 5G at lesser cost.