Airtel has confirmed upgrades undertaken on a number of its sites to provide fifth-generation (5G) mobile internet services in Kenya, barely a fortnight after Safaricom became the first telco to commercially deploy 5G in Kenya.
Safaricom launched the new 5G infrastructure in Nairobi, Kisumu, Kisii and Kakamega with plans to expand to 150 sites across nine towns over the next twelve months. According to Airtel, 600 of their sites are now 5G-ready.
The 600 sites are spread across Nairobi, Malindi and Mombasa.
“These 600 sites are now 5G-ready. We don’t have to make any further modifications to the network.
“We will just get the spectrum and decide when to switch on,” Airtel Kenya managing director Prasanta Das Sarma told reporters.
5G internet services becomes the latest frontier in the battle for market share in the lucrative data business.
As of June 2020, Safaricom commanded 67% of mobile data subscriptions in Kenya, with Airtel and Telkom having 27% and 5% respectively according to data from the Communications Authority (CA).
With its speeds of 700 megabits per second, 5G is at least three times faster than the 4G network.
It is expected to change how individuals work and play – making it possible to render heavy projects or download movies in seconds. Importantly, it will allow service providers to offer an alternative for homes and offices in areas not currently covered by their fibre network.
Expensive handset prices are, however, expected to delay Airtel’s commercial roll-out of 5G.
The firm expects the cost of 5G-enabled handsets to fall significantly within the next two years, with Sarma stating: “The 5G handsets right now are obviously very costly and see few buys. We feel that a reasonable price will start coming in one and a half to two years.”
“That is the time we feel we will be able to switch on our 5G network. But if things happen faster, we are ready for it,” he added.