Airtel Kenya is currently working on a network upgrade within Nairobi and its environs as the firm seeks to position itself as a data first operator in Kenya. The upgrade exercise involves network upgrades and refarming which will improve network coverage, increase capacity and boost user experience.
The network upgrades will involve modernization of its old transmission systems which will thus improve the coverage. Through the network upgrades, Airtel is set to implement a Single RAN solution that eliminates excess infrastructure implementing modularity. Airtel has been using legacy systems (out of date or in need of replacement technology) in most of its base stations. The network upgrade has been undertaken in a partnership with Nokia at a cost of 2.5 billion and has been taking place in their base stations around Nairobi.
The network upgrade is set to precede a refarming exercise that will allow for the reallocation of resources from its old legacy networks following the upgrade to modern networks such as 3G. The refarming exercise allows for removal of existing band allocations within the radio spectrum and reallocation of the spectrum into smaller bands.
This then allows for the offering of mobile broadband on different frequencies and is especially critical in the implementation of 3G technologies. Currently Airtel users are on 2100 band and the refarming means there will be two layers both in 2100 and 900 mhz allowing for better connectivity and improved throughput. Kenya has a higher penetration of U900 devices (3G,LTE enabled) which informed Airtel’s refarming decision.
Airtel is also intent on improving network coverage and ultimately internet connectivity near Universities by dedicating a 3G base station in all campuses. Following the exercise, Airtel users are likely to experience difficulties in connecting in some areas with the clean up and upgrade. The exercise in Nairobi is set to complete by the end of May.