Kenya’s Safaricom has today launched its first commercial trial of 5G services in Nairobi, Kisumu, Kisii and Kakamega

Today marks a major first for East Africa, with Safaricom launching the region’s first commercial 5G services with a trial in some of Kenya’s largest urban centres.

Both individual and enterprise customers in Nairobi, Kisumu, Kisii and Kakamega, will gain access to Safaricom’s 5G network for the first time as a result of the trial, with plans to expand the company’s 5G footprint to over 150 sites in nine towns over the next years.

"With 5G, we aim to empower our customers with super-fast internet at work, at home and when on the move, supplementing our growing fiber network," said Safaricom CEO Peter Ndegwa. "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."

The trial’s main goal is to test whether the customers can receive speeds of up to 700Mbps using the 5G network, with speeds of over 1Gbps planned in the near future.

Safaricom’s tech partners for the rollout are reportedly Huawei and Nokia. The company’s selection of Huawei is particularly notable given the ongoing geopolitical pressures surrounding the Chinese vendor, with Kenya seemingly resisting US political pressure to ignore Huawei. Africa remains somewhat of a stronghold for the Chinese tech giant, where their affordable infrastructure solutions remain popular.

Safaricom’s domestic rival Airtel Kenya also partnered with Nokia last year, in a deal aiming to upgrade its existing mobile infrastructure as well as build out new sites.

For Safaricom, the rollout of 5G will be a gradual but nonetheless crucial process over the next few years. Traditional voice revenues are falling throughout the region, with Safaricom hoping to use 5G to capitalise on the increasing mobile internet usage throughout Kenya. Safaricom’s internet data revenue has soared in recent years, growing more than three-fold in the past half a decade, reaching around $460 million last year.

This significant milestone in Safaricom’s 5G development will, at least for now, take a backseat to the ongoing rollout of 4G, with the company currently aiming to cover 80% of Kenya’s population with its 4G network by the end of this month. The company already has around 60 million mobile subscribers, enjoying a highly dominant position in the domestic market.


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