Kenya is following in the footsteps of South Africa in the adoption of 5G technology after the country’s largest telco Safaricom announced on Wednesday that it will be launching the next generation of connectivity on March 26.

Afcacia can confirm that Safaricom will work closely with global 5G heavyweights Huawei and Nokia to provide the requisite infrastructure to enable the telco upgrade its 4G LTE (Long Term Evolution) to 5G or lay stand-alone 5G base stations.

The service will be available in the capital Nairobi and greater western Kenya including Kisumu, Kisii and Bungoma counties which routinely witness increased data traffic.

“Safaricom will be the first operator in East Africa to launch 5G services and will be showcasing the capabilities of the network with the aid of Huawei and Nokia’s technologies,” Safaricom said in a statement.

However, only those owning the latest smartphones with 5G chips, such as Samsung Note 20, Note 20 Ultra, S21, S21 Plus and S21 Ultra will be able to enjoy the super fast speeds.

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.

South African operator MTN announced the launch of its 5G network in the country in July 2020, with the initial deployment of 100 5G sites.

The network currently covers areas of Johannesburg and Cape Town, as well as Bloemfontein and Port Elizabeth.

MTN said it had been carrying extensive 5G trials before the launch, which was made possible due to the South African Government’s decision to award temporary spectrum for 5G.

“For the past two years we have been actively innovating around the potential of 5G, using different bands and various vendors and across different platforms and devices, to ensure MTN South Africa can maintain leadership in 5G, as we have been able to maintain our leadership in 4G,” said MTN Chief Technology and Information Officer, Giovanni Chiarelli.

5G subscribers in South Africa are expected to reach 11 million by 2025, with a population coverage of 43%, according to a recent report by South African consultancy firm Africa Analysis.

This figure represents significant growth from the estimated 90,000 5G subscribers and 4.4% population coverage at the end of 2020.

“Following the conclusion of the upcoming spectrum auction, the market is expected to show strong growth. This will drive 5G subscribers to reach 11 million by 2025. On conclusion of the auction, we expect to see rapid 5G coverage roll out. For example, MTN, at its 5G launch, stated that it will cover 10 million people within 12 months after being awarded the spectrum,” the report states.

Africa Analysis said that another key driver will be the availability of 5G devices, specifically in the low-cost segment. Also, the launch of prepaid 5G products will enable the mobile operators to tap into the largest mobile market segment, the report added.


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