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4G/5G

Airtel launches 5G in Kenya

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Following months of testing, Airtel Kenya has launched its fifth-generation (5G) network in the East African country.

The Kenyan telco becomes the second operator to roll out 5G services after Safaricom was the first to bring 5G in October 2022.

In June, Airtel Kenya expanded its network to meet the growing demand for data services in the country and said 5G was coming soon.

Airtel 5G will now be available at over 370 active 5G sites in 16 Kenyan counties and 180 wards nationwide.

"Airtel 5G will revolutionize various sectors, such as smart cities, education, healthcare, Agri-tech, transport systems, entertainment, and more, shaping the future of Kenya," said Airtel Kenya Managing Director Ashish Malhotra during the 5G announcement event.

Furthermore, Malhotra said the carrier wanted to also focus on transforming online gaming, live streaming, content uploads and downloads with ultra-fast real-time connectivity.

Airtel 5G pricing vs. competitors

Airtel said that it would sell 5G-supported routers to interested consumer customers at 10,000 Kenyan Shillings (US$71) and would provide them to businesses for free.

On the other hand, Safaricom, which expanded its 5G services to 21 counties in April, charges KES25,000 ($177) for the same device.

Airtel 5G will be available at over 370 active sites in 16 Kenyan counties and 180 wards.   (Source: Image by Freepik.)
Airtel 5G will be available at over 370 active sites in 16 Kenyan counties and 180 wards.
(Source: Image by Freepik.)

Moreover, Airtel said it will offer 5G home broadband connections to residential homes and businesses in the East African country.

The telco said its plans start at KES3,500 ($25) for 10 Mbit/s while customers needing higher speeds will pay more, with 30 Mbit/s costing KES5,500 ($39) and 50 Mbit/s would cost KES7,500 ($53).

Kenya's mobile mix

Airtel Kenya had almost 17.7 million mobile users at the end of the first quarter of 2023, according to statistics from market research company Omdia, a sister company of Connecting Africa.

Airtel's market share in Kenya was about 27%, coming in behind market leader Safaricom, which controls almost 67% of the mobile market and had about 43.6 million mobile users.

Telkom Kenya remained well back in third place with about 3.6 million mobile customers over the same period, or just 5.5% market share. Jamii Telecommunications was fourth with just 360,600 subscribers or less than 1% market share.

5G progression in Africa

Airtel Kenya is joining list of telcos on the African continent who have recently deployed 5G services.

The operator's Nigerian counterpart, Airtel Nigeria, launched its 5G services in June, and that launch was followed by Gambian mobile operator QCell launching the country's first commercial 5G service.

In May, Vodacom Mozambique became the first mobile operator to launch 5G in the Southern African nation.

The recent 5G launches are in line with GSMA data that more than 10 African countries already have commercial 5G services and more will launch 5G by 2025.

Airtel Kenya's 5G launch is also in line with Ericsson's estimation that sub-Saharan Africa had 3 million 5G subscriptions at the end of 2022 and would rise to 140 million by 2028, accounting for 13% of total connections in the region.

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*Top image source: jbdodane on Flickr CC 2.0

Matshepo Sehloho, Associate Editor, Connecting Africa

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