Safaricom 5G Launches This Week, Your Queries Answered

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5G is finally coming to Kenya.

In the past on year, we had received credible hints that operator Safaricom was testing the service.

5G, which succeeds 4G LTE, is the next-gen standard for broadband cellular connections. It means that you will download stuff faster, and your internet speeds will be appreciably and noticeably faster.


Leading countries have already started using the service following years of testing. The US, for instance, has 5G coverage in most of its cities. Coverage is expanding to more areas, including the same development in other countries in Europe and Asia.

For context, Safaricom launched 4G in 2014. The carrier started expanding it to more region in Kenya from 2016. As of 2020, the operator is yet to avail the service to all major urban centers, but it is getting there.

Telkom and Airtel Kenya only came into the LTE space a couple of years later.

So here is what we know about the launch.

WHEN

The service will go live on Friday, 26th March. However, we expect it to be live as soon as tomorrow (25th March).

WHERE

The service will be launched in Nairobi and Western Kenya.

PROVIDERS

For now, 5G will be availed to customers by Safaricom.

PARTNERS

The 5G infrastructure is developed by both Nokia and Huawei.

Huawei has been on a tight spot over the last year, following pressure from the US government that its 5G telecoms system was not secure. Huawei has since defended its position, citing that its lead in the 5G space has made it a target of competing companies that are jealous of its technological strides.

BANDS

5G standards are provided in two standards/frequency groups; at 450 MHz – 6 GHz and at 24 GHz – 52 GHz. The majority of the deployment is at the 450 MHz – 6 GHz frequency, which is what we suspect Safaricom will use.

At the moment, researchers are hard at work figuring out how to deploy 24 GHz – 52 GHz, also known as mmWave, efficiently.

COMPLIANCE WITH REGULATORS

The Communications Authority of Kenya is aware of the 5G developments in Kenya, and has since allocated frequencies for the operator.

COST

At the moment, no one knows the license fees for 5G frequencies. However, the details will be detailed on Friday when Safaricom launches the service officially.

4G licensing cost KES 2.5 billion per operator.

SUPPORTED DEVICES

So far, only a handful of phones officially available in Kenya are equipped with a 5G chip.

The latest ones are from Samsung and Apple: Samsung S21 series with the Exynos 2100 supports 5G. This time around, Samsung has not deactivated the feature as it did with the S20 lineup from 2020 (that we hope will be updated to support the service).

The second group is the iPhone 12 line.

Of course, there are a bunch of other phones out there with support for 5G, most of them powered by less capable chipsets in terms of raw power.

We look forward to them being supported by the network. Besides is likely going to release a list of supported phones.

NEW SIM CARDS? [NO NEW SIM CARDS NEEDED ACCORDING TO GADGETS AFRICA]

Similar to when 4G launched, it is likely that customers will need to replace their SIMs for those that support 5G.


DATA CONSUMPTION, SPEEDS

5G consumes a lot of data and can go up to 2 Gbps on a good connection. A speed test itself would make a dent on your data plan. These are some of the questions we will be raising on Friday, including how the carrier will adjust data plans.