Why Safaricom Has Slowed Down on 5G Roll-out

Safaricom 5G on the Vivo V25 5G
Safaricom 5G on the Vivo V25 5G

Back in early 2021, Safaricom announced the availability of its 5G services. At that time, there were a few test sites in Nairobi, Kisumu and other select parts of the country. The telco was the first to do so, just as it did with 4G back in 2014.

Over the months, not much has been revealed about 5G commercial roll-out. We had expected that the connection could go live sometime in 2022, but the year is about to end without any key announcement from the telco.

It, however, doesn’t mean that Safaricom is not putting up 5G towers in various parts of the country. There are several in Nairobi, and others can be accessed in other cities and towns. However, the network is not yet commercially available, so customers can only get to access 5G if they have 5G-supported phones, and are near an area with 5G coverage. And other than seeing the 5G icon and doing a speed test on their phones, there isn’t much one can do with the network for now.

To note, the 5G network is more generous and can accommodate many users, and more data. This means that packages are equally bigger.  This is also one thing that Safaricom is working on because when 5G is fully deployed, albeit in select areas, it will revise package capacity and prices for customers. We do not know what the ideal packages and the right pricing for them will be.

Now, more has been revealed as to why Safaricom hasn’t pushed 5G as much. According to CEO Peter Ndegwa, 5G devices cost more than KES 100K. However, those are flagship devices from Samsung and Apple. Others, such as Xiaomi and Nokia already have affordable devices that support the network. Even Samsung itself has affordable devices that can connect to 5G.

The retail prices of 5G phones are more than KSh 100 000, putting them beyond the reach of most Kenyans – Peter Ndegwa

So, according to the CEO, until phones that can receive 5G signals are priced lower, there is no need for them to roll out 5G commercially.

Until handsets that can receive 5G are at a sufficient scale from an individual mobile perspective, there is an insufficient need to have lots of sites that offer 5G. – Peter Ndegwa

Safaricom says it is focusing on 4G now in place of 5G for the said reasons.

The telco has also been working with MediaTek to ensure that their 5G-supported chips are working perfectly with the Safaricom network.

98 percent of Kenyans are connected to Safaricom 2G and 35. 97 percent of the population is connected to 4G, a feat that other operators have not been able to achieve.

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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]