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[Interview] Airtel Kenya’s MD Ashish Malhotra on the company’s 5G expansion plans


Kenya’s second-largest telco Airtel recently launched its 5G network becoming the second operator to roll out the network after Safaricom

At the launch, Airtel noted that over 370 of its 5G sites are now live in 16 counties and 180 wards nationwide.  This is actually higher compared to the 205 5G sites owned by Safaricom.  

Airtel Kenya says its 5G network is concentrated in specific zones, including highly populated residential areas, malls, hospitals, city centres, and central business districts. These designated 5G, Airtel said, zones will be clearly marked for customers’ convenience in identifying and accessing faster internet speeds.

Even with the 5G rollout, Airtel says it will still continue to expand 4G coverage. Currently, Airtel has over 3300 4G sites sites are 4G enabled.

In this brief interview, Airtel Kenya Managing Director Mr Ashish Malhotra talks to TechTrends Media about these plans as well as how the company plans to expand its 5G coverage to other parts of the country. 

Talk about your 4G expansion plans

All Airtel sites are now 100% 4G enabled, and all new sites are deployed with 4G. To further enhance user experience, timely 4G Capacity upgrades are done based on capacity needs for existing sites.

Does the 5G launch now mean you’re going to shift and focus more on 5G expansion?

Our focus is on enhancing customer experience and ensuring customers get exceptional data experience for all technologies. Based on this, our expansion will be based on the capacity needed for each technology.

How many customers do you hope to connect on 5G by the end of the year?

With the network’s deployment and its presence, we believe we will have more customers and we shall continue expanding the technology. The digital sphere in the country and globally is constantly growing; every other enterprise and home setting constantly needs connectivity.

Do you believe the high price of 5G-enabled phones is a challenge when it comes to 5G adoption in Kenya?

5G devices are quite expensive; thus, our market reach is still limited. However, with the launch of the 5G network, we believe more customers will purchase the devices. It was the same story as during the launch of 4G; initially, the devices were expensive, and the penetration was low, but as the network expanded, people came to know more about the technology and adopted it. I’m sure with time, the 5G technology will be adopted quickly. However, there are various 5G-enabled devices currently retailing at customer-friendly prices(comparable to 4G-enabled (Non 5G) devices), which will enhance 5G Mobile uptake. Besides, Airtel also has 5G SmartBox Router devices currently in the market at affordable prices that will go a long way in enhancing Home Broadband connectivity.

Also, talk about your 5G expansion plans

We are looking at penetrating areas that lack fiber connection. We have started with 16 counties, but we shall keep expanding with the 5G connectivity to other counties. 

Any closing remarks 

At Airtel Kenya, we position ourselves as a digital services enabler, committed to investing wisely in change, disruption, and innovation. 

Our brand promise is to continuously expand our network, ensuring that every Kenyan can partake in the remarkable benefits that 5G has to offer.

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Nixon Kanali

Tech journalist based in Nairobi. I track and report on tech and African startups. Founder and Editor of TechTrends Media. Nixon is also the East African tech editor for Africa Business Communities. Send tips to nkanali@techtrendske.co.ke.

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