Safaricom 5G is here.
The service just went live today, having been in a test phase for the last couple of months.
The now ended launch event was conducted at the Safaricom Headquarters, with the firm’s CEO Peter Ndegwa, the ICT CS Joe Mucheru, and the Director-General of the Communications Authority of Kenya, Mercy Wanjau in attendance.
Now, on to the good stuff…
There are only two 5G antennas in the country. One is at the Safaricom HQ, and another one is in Kisumu.
Both systems were used to test a conference call using a hologram, and the exercise was completed without any glitches.
So, what do the two locations tell you?
Well, first, 5G is not available for the masses yet. In fact, there are less than 100 devices that are connected to the network.
Second is that this is a pilot, meaning it will take a while before our phones start picking a 5G connection.
Are there other locations?
Nairobi is the first obvious spot. The carrier will erect more antennas around the city.
Other areas that will be served during the first phase are Kisumu (as said, there is one antenna at the lakeside city), Kisii and Kakamega. Mombasa misses out this time around, but we know it will be served before we know it.
Safaricom adds that there will be more than 150 sites by this time in 2022.
How about those 5G speeds?
The fastest speed we have so far seen hits 1.3 Gbps (down). Up speeds are pretty normal, and match what you would get with 4G standards. This is the same thing in other countries that have had the service for a little longer.
We have a couple of screenshots from two device: Huawei Mate 30 Pro and the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra. Check them out below.
The company has also revealed plans to later increase 5G internet speeds beyond 1,000 Mbps in later stages of the trial.
Basically, if you phone has a 5G antenna, then it is a viable candidate for Safaricom’s 5 network when it becomes widely available.
However, the official ones (phones that are sold in Kenya officially) are the iPhone 12s, Samsung Galaxy S21 lineup, Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 and the Nokia 8.3 5G.
Samsung Kenya also adds that the S20 series will receive an update that will unlock 5G capabilities. It also released the A52 5G for other markets, but we wouldn’t be surprised if it makes its way here.
Also, and as seen, the supported devices are on the high-end side, which is sad because the price range will lock a lot of enthusiasts out.
But our 5G phones did not connect to 5G. Why?
Well, for now, Safaricom has only allowed select devices to access 5G.
Many members of the media had 5G-capable phones but they could not access it.
However, this will be resolved as soon as the carrier erects 5G routers around the city for the masses.
And as we said, you will not need a new SIM card. The one you have is totally capable of accessing the faster connection.
Which 5G spectrum has been used?
This was not clearly made obvious to us when we asked. However, it is speculated that Safaricom has used mid-band transmissions (1 GHz and 6 GHz), which hit 1 Gbps in peak speeds and can accommodate many devices over a given square area.
How much did Safaricom pay for 5G spectrum?
Asked about the license fees for 5G, DG Mercy Wanjau said that the Authority has not finished discussions about spectrum pricing.
However, this will be completed in the next two weeks or thereabouts.
There is no denying that 5G, with its amazing speeds, will be a data hog. This was made obvious at launch, and one of the reason the carrier will launch the product intermittently is to protect the customer from excessive data use (speed test alone gobble up a ton of data), while it prepares 5G data plans.
Meaning, 5G data plans are on the way…
Today marks a major milestone for the country. With 5G, we aim to empower our customers with super-fast internet at work, at home and when on the move, supplementing our growing fibre network. At Safaricom, we are proud to be the first in the country and the region to bring this latest innovation to both our retail and enterprise customers empowering them to start exploring new opportunities that 5G provides.
Peter Ndegwa, CEO, Safaricom
I congratulate Safaricom on this milestone, reinforcing the country’s position at being at the forefront of innovation in the region and the world. 5G technology will usher increased internet speeds and capabilities for millions across the country, laying a strong foundation for a new generation of innovators and entrepreneurs.
Hon. Joe Mucheru, Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Information and Technology