Safaricom CEO Peter Ndegwa has outlined the telco’s timeline for the commercial roll-out of its 5G service, which was launched on a trial basis in March 2021.
The trial began with both individual and enterprise customers in Nairobi, Kisumu, Kisii and Kakamega. By the end of the year, Safaricom intends the service to an additional 200 sites across nine towns.
Ndegwa revealed that the telco was eyeing commercialization of the service in 2022. Areas where fibre is inaccessible are notably set to benefit from the expansion as Safaricom looks to shore up revenues from data.
“This year is a trial phase and we intend to have 150 to 200 sites coming from the first use case of homes, especially in places where we do not have fibre…We will be able to test on such areas and help customers in terms of speed and reliability and from next year we can be able to commercialise a bit faster but I will come with that at the appropriate time,” Ndegwa noted.
The primary objective during the trial period is to establish if customers can enjoy speeds of up to 700 Megabits per second, with plans to offer than 1,000 Mbps speeds in coming months.
The super-fast internet offers speeds 10 to 20 times faster than 4G. However, many Kenyans who use mobile internet do so on the 3G network primarily due to the comparatively higher costs of 4G and 5G devices.
Safaricom has notably continued to deepen penetration of 4G, increasing the number of sites by 24.1% to 5,387 at the end of March.
Increased demand for faster video streaming and downloads, high-quality video calls, smooth online gaming experiences and more, however, presents an opportunity for Safaricom to grow its data revenues, which have in recent years become a key pillar for the company complementing M-Pesa, voice and SMS.
Its closest competitor, Airtel, is also keen on offering 5G mobile internet service.
This year, Airtel Kenya upgraded 600 network sites to meet 5G mobile Internet service capabilities ahead of a roll-out of the service in Nairobi, Mombasa and Malindi.