How Safaricom Has Improved Mobile Data Experience for Kenyans

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Safaricom’s mobile data coverage is the best in Kenya, and this has been the case for the past years. While it is not the cheapest in terms of data prices (compared to the competition), the carrier has tried to boost its coverage across the country. By now, its 2G and 3G coverage are at 98 percent, while 4G covers 97 percent of the Kenyan population.

However, the company has been slow to commercially roll out 5G. The main reason for this case is that 5G-capable phones are expensive, and many consumers cannot afford them. In contrast, you can get a 4G-supported phone for as little as KES 4000, including the telco’s own Neon smartphones. This issue will soon be addressed, hopefully, as soon as cheaper 5G devices start arriving in the country from competitive players such as Tecno, Infinix, Xiaomi, and more.

The rollout of 5G proved to be more challenging and complex than expected, necessitating a high level of financial investment, and involving diverse stakeholders including government, regulatory authorities, network vendors, and device manufacturers. While the initiative was hampered by the significant lack of 5G devices, we continue to anticipate growing adoption by customers across all fields – Safaricom in a statement

Improving data experience

Safaricom says that it is committed to offering the best mobile data experience in Kenya. It has since done a lot over the course of 2022 through the increase of radio capacity and network coverage. Some of its inputs include the following:

  • It upgraded 1100 4G sites
  • It upgrades 1000 3G sites
  • Safaricom rolled out 495 new sites
  • It integrated new 4G spectrum into 1800 new sites
  • It increased core capacity to enable a 60 percent jump in data traffic
  • It enhanced VoLTE by 80 percent to cater to 5 million users

The telco adds that densification in high-rise buildings in towns and cities has been an issue in terms of accessing Safaricom mobile networks. This forced the carrier to focus on improving indoor coverage, especially in Nairobi. To this end, Safaricom has been able to improve mobile data experience at around 200 indoor locations. The development has seen a jump in traffic of up to 40 percent.

Another issue that has been brought up by the telco is fuel shortage. This affected backup power supply via generators. At the same time, network congestion on the radio network was an issue. This, nonetheless, is being fixed by rolling out new technologies to cater to fixed wireless access and 4G home customers. In the process, the telco is relieving radio capacity on the 4G network for customers.

 FY19FY20FY21FY22
Avg. weekly unavailable minutes6.511.911.414.5
Avg. radio access network service unavailability rate25.632.424.729.5
% Base stations connected to grid (in total)9594.594.5694
Rectifier modernization (new KPI for FY22)155
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Kenn Abuya is a friend of technology, with bias in enterprise and mobile tech. Share your thoughts, tips and hate mail at [email protected]