Safaricom on Thursday had this event with developers where they discussed 4G LTE in Kenya and the progress made. This was one of the topics as they also engaged developers on Mpesa Api, Innovation Forum and Safaricom innovation fund. One of the interesting topics was the roll-out of 4G LTE which is expected to go live for all of Nairobi and Mombasa by the end of March 2015.
Safaricom stated that 4G LTE is proceeding quite on time and as we sp0ke there were sites that were being turned on. At the forum, Andrew Masila mentioned that 4G LTE on Safaricom had already covered up-to Ngong Road and south all the way to the Jomo Kenyatta Airport. He added that in a few weeks the other sites within Nairobi will be covered and on schedule.
At launch of Safaricom 4G late last year there were a few sites with Runda, Westlands areas and Buruburu being live then. But the speeds close to 4G speeds were only felt at Village market where the launch happened. The other areas were mostly doing upto 30Mbps which is within 3G thresholds.
I did a speedtest on 4G phones (Samsung Galaxy J1 and an iPhone) and we have 25MBps downloads and 7MBps uploads on a smarphone for local traffic and 13MBps downloads / 9MBps international traffic.
Andrew also added a few interesting points about 4G LTE which include the reason users need to “upgrade” their SIM card, He said that 4G is a flat network that is vulnerable to security risks so the upgrade is necessary as the new SIM card is better protected. He added that 4G is a data only service, so technically the calls you make are on 3G or 4G. What happens is that there is a circuit switch where upon initiating a call there is a switch back to 3G or 2G to make the call and once call is done it switches back to 4G LTE.
In the future we could have voice over LTE (Voice over the data channel) as a way around that to ensure that a user is on 4G all through. Andrew mentioned that roaming with LTE is quite a challenge as the costs can be very high, mentioning that this was a global challenge. He added that talks are in place with global players to work on getting a solution about a workable plan for LTE roaming.