Safaricom has just announced the completion of Kenya’s first telecommunications lab at a cost of Ksh. 200 Million. The lab is located at Safaricom HQ3 in Nairobi and it will be used for research and development purposes.
At its current state, the Technology Lab replicates Safaricom’s entire network including the billing platform, application servers such as M-PESA, Safaricom’s cloud, microwave, 2G, 3G and 4G networks in a single room.
Safaricom says the lab will serve as a training environment for new engineers and those working on new technologies, and as a testing ground for new ideas that can be developed into new telecommunication solutions. The Technology Lab will also allow vigorous and expedited testing of upgrades, allowing such upgrades to be deployed on the live network at less than half the time it has usually taken.
Safaricom says that this will benefit its more than 27 million customers as this new lab will see the fast tracking of deployment of new technology and solutions without impacting the live network.
“In the last five years, Safaricom has put in place various measures to attract, retain and develop world-class local talent in the telecommunications sector. The launch of this research and development lab, the first in the region, is a step towards shifting the country from simply being an importer of telecommunication solutions to one that also creates such solutions,” said Thibaud Rerolle, Director- Technology, Safaricom.
Technologies currently undergoing testing in the lab ahead of live network deployment include a 1 Gigabit per Second (Gbps) LTE-Advanced 4G technology which allows aggregation of up to a maximum of five 4G carriers, a trial mobile network that runs on the cloud and Internet of Things (IoT) trials (including IoT-enabled smart water meters).
Techweez paid a visit to the lab and interacted with these technologies. Our correspondent at Safaricom also revealed that the plan is to have the lab transform into a center where telecommunications engineering students can be trained and to allow students test out ideas that they may have especially in IOT.
Safaricom has partnered with industry players such as Cisco, Huawei, Nokia and others who have donated equipment and expertise to the lab. The partners are also using the lab as a global test centre for new solutions before sale and deployment to mobile operators across the world.