Safaricom 5G: A couple of weeks ago I did a piece on how 5G deployment across Africa has been very slow despite telecom operators around the world having rolled out the network since 2019. As of May this year, only 6 African countries had rolled out the 5th generation network. And even at that, most of these launches were not even commercial.
In Kenya, the country’s leading telco Safaricom rolled out 5G trials in select parts across the country in March 2021 including Nairobi, Kisumu, Kisii and Kakamega. At the launch, the telco said it plans to expand 5G sites to more than 150 across nine towns over the next 12 months. The trials aimed to establish if the network can offer speeds of up to 700 Megabits per second. The telco planned to offer more than 1,000 Mbps speeds after it was done with the trials that were available for both the company’s enterprise and individual customers.
When Safaricom rolled out the trials, it mentioned the towns or cities but did not specify precise locations where I could carry my phone to experience 5G. This is because the telco only rolled out the trials to Fixed Wireless customers in the covered areas. The telco is now going commercial with the service in Kenya today officially becoming the first operator in East Africa to do so.
“We believe in the transformative power of the internet and will continue to deliver the most advanced technologies towards enabling our customers enjoy a digital lifestyle. The launch of 5G Wi-Fi is the first step in empowering our retail and enterprise customers to start exploring new opportunities that 5G provides,” said Peter Ndegwa, CEO Safaricom PLC during the launch.
Customers in 5G-ready zones in Kenya can access 5G Wi-Fi by purchasing a 5G router at KES 25,000 plus a setup fee of KES 5,000 and selecting from three packages on offer. Customers will also have the option of signing up for a 36-month contract that will enable them to receive the router for free.
The introductory 5G Wi-Fi plans include: 10Mbps with a usage limit of 300GB at KES 3,499; 40Mbps with a usage limit of 500GB at KES 5,999; and 100Mbps with a usage limit of 1TB at KES 14,999. Customers will be able to continue using the internet at throttled speeds upon depletion of the allocated usage limit.
Customers using supported 5G smartphones will also be able to access the 5G network and enjoy superfast 5G speeds.
Supported smartphones include 5G-enabled devices from the Samsung Galaxy S and Fold series, as well as Huawei and Oppo 5G devices. Customers using iPhones and select 5G-capable Samsung devices will require a software update from the manufacturer to access the 5G network.
Safaricom says plans are also underway to provide 5G data packages for mobile internet customers and leverage the Lipa Mdogo Mdogo device-financing solution to avail more affordable 5G smartphones.
Currently, Safaricom has 35 active 5G sites spread across Nairobi, Kisumu, Kisii, Kakamega and Mombasa, and it plans to expand to 200 sites across the country by March 2023.