Safaricom issued 2600MHz spectrum ahead of 5G launch

Safaricom issued 2600MHz spectrum ahead of 5G launch

Safaricom has reportedly been granted 60MHz of spectrum in the 2600MHz band by the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) in preparation for its commercial 5G launch.

Local outlet The Daily Nation quoted an anonymous source as saying that the 2600MHz band was “very prime” and noting that it was formerly used by security agencies in Kenya, but was released after the sector switched to a different technology standard.

The Daily Nation’s source did not reveal how much Safaricom has paid for the spectrum holding, although it can be safely assumed that the licence fee will outstrip the US$25 million (Sh2.89billion) price of 4G spectrum five years ago. Safaricom did not respond to the Nation’s queries about its 5G deployment plans.

The fact that Safaricom’s allocation is in the 2600MHz band is significant as its network was constructed by Chinese vendor Huawei. In many of its deployments – a recent example being Thailand - Huawei tends to favour the 2600MHz band as it enables the nationwide deployment of base transmission stations to help operators deal with heavy data traffic.

Alongside rival Airtel Kenya, Safaricom has already trialled 5G technology across hundreds of sites in Kenya as it prepares to deploy the technology commercially. Thus far, it has conducted pilots in Kisii, Kisumi and Nairobi and is seeking to extend this to cover more urban regions. Airtel meanwhile has over 600 5G-ready sites across Malindi, Mombasa and Nairobi.

To facilitate 5G deployments, the CA confirmed that by the end of June it will reallocate 3.5GHZ spectrum typically used for fixed wireless access (FWA) connectivity. However, it has not yet given Safaricom the green light to begin a commercial deployment, having recently rejected the operator’s request to bring forward its rollout.

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