Kenyan operator Safaricom has announced the commercial availability of 5G in the country – though only in Wi-Fi form for now.
This week’s formal launch of the service is described by Safaricom as “5G Wi-Fi to empower its customers with superfast internet at home and at work, complementing its growing fibre network”.
Customers in 5G-ready zones can access 5G Wi-Fi by purchasing a 5G router, paying a setup fee and selecting from the packages on offer. Customers using supported 5G smartphones will also be able to access the 5G network.
Plans are also underway to provide 5G data packages for mobile internet customers and leverage the Lipa Mdogo Mdogo device-financing solution to help with making 5G smartphones more affordable.
Currently, Safaricom has 35 active 5G sites spread across Nairobi, Kisumu, Kisii, Kakamega and Mombasa. It plans to expand to 200 sites across the country by March 2023.
With this launch Safaricom becomes the first firm to deploy 5G technology commercially in East Africa. It became the first service provider in Kenya to announce 5G trials in March last year. The company, whose internet provision business is one of its fastest growing, uses equipment from Nokia and Huawei to power its 5G network.
Reuters says that, according to Communications Authority of Kenya data, Safaricom dominates the mobile data market but holds only about a third of the fixed data market. It adds that, besides the Wi-Fi market opportunity, the initial focus on 5G Wi-Fi rather than mobile is because there are still relatively few 5G-compatible devices in Kenya.