Kenya presses the 5G button

East Africa’s largest telco Safaricon on Friday boldly pressed the 5G button, with trials for the supper fast connectivity expected in the coming months. This ushers in a new wave of wireless interconnectivity for individuals and businesses in Kenya, a country that has been hailed by the World Bank for its readiness to adopt emerging technologies as the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) sweeps across Africa.

In an invite-only press event held at the Michael Joseph Centre in Westlands, Nairobi, the company said trials will begin with both individual and enterprise customers in the capital and extent the service to the towns of Kisumu, Kisii and Kakamega, found in the western part of the country.

The tech behemoth said it plans to expand the number of such 5G sites to more than 150 across nine towns over the next 12 months, to establish if customers can enjoy speeds of up to 700 Megabits per second, with plans to offer more than 1,000 Mbps speeds towards the end of the year.

To achieve this, it will work closely with global 5G infrastructure providers Huawei and Nokia.

“Today marks a major milestone for the country. 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,” said Peter Ndegwa, CEO, Safaricom.

The 5G technology can easily act as an alternative to Home Fibre and Fibre for Business services, targeting customers in places where Safaricom is yet to roll out its fibre network.

FROM LEFT: Kenya’s ICT minister Joe Mucheru, Safaricom CEO Peter Ndegwa and Acting Communications Authority of Kenya Director General Mercy Wanjau at the 5G launch on March 26, 2021. Photo /Courtesy of The Star newspaper, Nairobi

Enterprise and Home Internet customers on the service will be provided with a 5G router. Additionally, the 5G service will be available on mobile phones beginning with the Huawei Mate 30 Pro and P40 on Friday, and from the end of April 2021 on the Nokia 8.3, Samsung Galaxy S21 series, Samsung Galaxy Z Fold2 and Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G.

This 5G modem from Huawei will convert 5G signal to WiFi for your non 5G devices. Huawei also got 5G wifi devices all you need for your home is a #Safaricom5G sim card and it’s plug and play. There are also Wi-Fi mesh devices if you want to extend Wi-Fi connectivity for your home.

“I congratulate Safaricom on this milestone, reinforcing the country’s position at being at the forefront of innovation in the region and the world. 5G technology will usher increased internet speeds and capabilities for millions across the country, laying a strong foundation for a new generation of innovators and entrepreneurs,” said Joe Mucheru, Kenya’s minister of the Ministry of Information and Technology.

Nokia said it has in the past leveraged its AirScale SRAN platform to enable ultra-low latency, huge connectivity and extreme capacity to support the demands of today and tomorrow.

The 5G network utilizes massive Multiple Input Multiple Output (MIMO) radio to improve spectral efficiency and throughput capacity, maximizing the return on Safaricom’s RAN investment.

In addition, Nokia’s FastMile 5G gateway provides fiber like speeds for fixed wireless services to subscribers. Also, the company’s network planning, deployment and integration services ensured timely rollout of the network.

As part of the network, Nokia 5G Cloud Mobility Manager is expected to deliover the scalability, flexibility, high availability and performance needed to support the growth of mobile and enterprise services. Nokia’s NetAct network management system helps Safaricom have consolidated network view for improved network monitoring and management.

Amr K. El Leithy, SVP, Middle East and Africa Market, Nokia, told Afcacia that, with over 200 commercial 5G agreements with leading customers across the globe, the company will be working harder to bring the 5G network to Africa.

“Our 5G network for Safaricom is a key part of this journey and we are committed to working with the operator to transform the communications landscape in the country. This will open new business opportunities for Safaricom,” he said.

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 a manufacturing and supply chain management for businesses.

Nokia and Huawei have been chosen as the two technology partners to implement the roll out of Safaricom’s 5G network. For mobile internet customers, the service will be available on select 5G smartphones from Samsung, Huawei and Nokia, all available at Safaricom Shops. The company has also revealed plans to later increase 5G internet speeds beyond 1,000 Mbps in later stages of the trial. 

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