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Safaricom expands 5G to more Kenyan counties

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More Kenyans will have access to ultra-fast Internet services after telecoms operator Safaricom expanded its 5G network to another 14 counties, bringing the total up to 35 counties covered with 5G services.

"As a digital lifestyle enabler, we are excited about a 5G future, which makes it possible to close the digital divide in underserved communities, and provide access to critical services," said Safaricom CEO Peter Ndegwa in a statement.

"By increasing 5G coverage, we are enhancing Kenya's Internet network and empowering our customers to start exploring the possibilities of 5G," he continued.

Safaricom has partnered with Chinese multinational Huawei to set up three 5G experience centers in Nairobi. The centers will enable Kenyans to experience how 5G can transform homes and businesses, the telco said.

Located in Safaricom's Village Market, The Hub and Buruburu shops, the centers host virtual reality gaming zones, smart home and enterprise use cases as well as speed-testing booths.

In an attempt to gain more customers the service provider has also dropped the price of 5G Wi-Fi routers, with cash customers getting a 60% price reduction on the router, which now retails at 9,999 Kenyan shillings (US$66) down from KES25,000 ($166).

Kenyan 5G progression

Safaricom was the first service provider to launch 5G in the East African country in October 2022, and since then, coverage has grown.

New counties where 5G is now present include Bomet, Busia, Isiolo, Kitui, Mandera, Migori, Tharaka-Nithi, Trans Nzoia, Homa Bay, West Pokot, Embu, Kirinyaga, Muranga and Turkana.

Safaricom's 5G network now covers 35 counties in Kenya.  (Source: Image by on Freepik).
Safaricom's 5G network now covers 35 counties in Kenya.
(Source: Image by on Freepik).

These counties join 28 towns across 21 counties that already received 5G network coverage in April 2023.

However, Safaricom is not the only telco to have deployed 5G services in the country. Following numerous tests, Airtel Kenya also launched 5G services to 16 Kenyan counties and 180 wards in July 2023.

Ahead of the 5G launch Airtel also expanded its overall network to meet the growing demand for data services in the country.

Kenya's technology mix

It will be interesting to see how Safaricom's 5G expansion will impact the telco's subscriber base.

Statistics from market research company Omdia, a sister company of Connecting Africa, show that Safaricom is the largest operator in the country with almost 45 million users in the third quarter of 2023.

However, the telco currently only has an estimated 539,000 5G subscribers which could increase due to the increased 5G rollout.

Omdia reports that almost 19 million Safaricom users are on 4G, 6.6 million on 3G and 18.7 million are using 2G.

Follow Connecting Africa on our new X account @connect__africa to get the latest telecoms and tech news across Africa.

Airtel Kenya, which recently deployed 5G, had an estimated 18.3 million users in the third quarter. However, it had very few 5G users so far with the bulk of users - 10 million of them - still on 2G; 2.7 million using 3G; and almost 5.4 million using a 4G connection.

Telkom Kenya remained well back in third place overall with almost 3.3 million mobile customers over the same period. Around 2.7 million of its users were on 4G; almost 346,000 on 3G; and almost 211,000 users still on 2G.

Jamii Telecommunications was the smallest operator with just over 446,000 subscribers who are all on 4G.

Kenyan operators and the government are trying to get more citizens to use smartphone technology and the country this week opened a local device assembly factory with the capacity to produce up to 3 million mobile phone units annually.

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*Top image source: Image by Freepik

— Matshepo Sehloho, Associate Editor, Connecting Africa

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