In 2014, Safaricom started testing 4G LTE in Kenya with sites in both Mombasa and Nairobi. 4G was initially available in Gigiri, Runda, Buruburu, Lower Kabete, Parklands in Nairobi, and Mombasa Island and Changamwe in Mombasa. Since then Safaricom has made a sizeable investment with the setting up of 4G sites across the country which currently stand at slightly over 500.
Despite this investment, the telco faced massive challenges in getting consumers to fully utilize the capabilities presented by 4G. The company for one faced the challenge of its users lacking devices with 4G capability. Safaricom rolled-out of 3G in addition to making 3G capable devices available. As such, there were few users on their network with 4G capable devices.
In addition, the price point for most devices with 4G capability was beyond the reach of most of its customers. The price of these devices has over the last year reduced, improving access for most consumers. The telco has also worked with OEMs in the introduction of entry-level 4G devices such as the Samsung Z2 and Huawei Y360, dramatically lowering the barrier of entry for such customers.
Quite a huge number of Safaricom customers still don’t find a use case for 4G something Safaricom finds challenging. With a firm 3G network, most users were able to have a good internet experience, considering the limited use many consumers have for mobile internet. This includes access to WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram, for the most part.
To deal with this challenge Safaricom has focused on offering users on 4G better and improved speeds as well as an improved experience. Sim cards were another challenge for the firm, as most of them were 3G enabled and thus couldn’t offer consumers 4G capability. The company began offering free SIM swap services to its customers, where one could get a free 4G enabled sim card for free. The telco has since begun issuing only 4G enabled sim cards to customers.
4G is data-intensive, because of the higher resolution content users can access, with content loaded based on the kinds of speeds a user has, meaning with 4G you will most probably get HD video content. Many Safaricom subscribers already on 4G often lock their networks to 3G with the view of reducing the data consumption. Safaricom has seen this as a hurdle and is set to introduce a new set of data bundles targeting 4G customers.
According to Julius Kundu, Safaricom Senior Manager Data and Messaging, the 4G-specific bundles will allow customers to engage in heavy browsing and eliminate the Wi-Fi hunting tradition commonplace among Kenyans. The firm will also give customers who migrate to 4G for the first time free 4GB of data to allow them to enjoy the experience. The new bundles are 200MB for Kshs 100 on the weekly plan and 5GB for Kshs 1500 on the monthly data plan. Other data products remain the same.
UPDATE, 4.47pm: The story was updated to reflect the extent of new bundles. Only these two bundle will be introduced.