Yesterday, telco Safaricom hosted a couple of media personalities to apprise them of the progress the carrier has made in terms of digital transformation, and what it plans to do in coming days. Here is what emerged from the meeting.
Safaricom is a market leader in several segments of carrier services. It launched 4G services for its subscribers and has since grown its coverage up to 52 percent. The product was also supplemented with another frequency spectrum, thusly, 4G+. In principle, 4G+ plus enhances connection speeds by augmenting the spectrum provided by the Communications Authority of Kenya (800 Mhz) with Safaricom’s (1800 Mhz), which, in some cases, doubles ordinary LTE speeds. Overall, the development of 4G services will play a crucial role in the rollout of voice over LTE (VoLTE), which is our next highlight.
VoLTE refers to making phone calls over a 4G network rather than relying on 2G or 3G connections that are often used. We also tend to assume that LTE services are limited to internet access, and indeed that’s chiefly what they are used for, but can also be used to enhance phone calls.
Safaricom has been hinting to launch VoLTE for some time now, and some customers have been looking forward to the service because it offers superior call quality, improves coverage and connectivity and can natively support video calls.
However, Safaricom says that for the service to go live, it has to liaise with phone manufacturers to push an update to support VoLTE. Secondly, the telco says that the service can only be rolled out once 4G coverage grows admirably (4G coverage is still at 52%, 3G is at 94% in Kenya). We are not sure of the projected coverage value that will allow its launch, but it has to be where 3G is or more.
Speaking of OEMs, Safaricom has tested a couple of devices from Apple, Huawei and Transsion, implying that when the technology goes live, the lion’s share of phones sold locally will be supported accordingly.
Now, I still continue to experience issues with Safaricom’s Home Fibre product, which started showing signs of degradation a few months ago. I have ranted in two or more posts about the unreliability of the service, but the telco says it addressed the service to counter the uproar.
In essence, any plans that are not Gold or Platinum will dedicate the entire bandwidth to downloads (cutting access to other services and devices). However, Safaricom says it has since stopped doing so and is balancing resources to allow web access and download of files at reduced speeds. I tested this, and it does not work on Silver. It is sad, and we hope the operator does something about this as I will not be worn down in dishing out a fair share of complaints from time to time.