Back in 2021, we learned that Airtel Kenya had entered the 5G race after the telco reported it had upgraded some of its sites with fifth-generation internet connectivity. This happened at a time when Safaricom had announced the same program but on a pilot test. However, no other development was announced by telco, and in the following two years, Safaricom would eclipse Airtel’s part in 5G. For instance, Safaricom 5G has since been commercialized, and the operator is expanding the service to more areas across the country.
Airtel Kenya now says that it has acquired 5G spectrum to fully roll out 5G in Kenya, following a statement made by Airtel Africa’s CEO Segun Ogunsanya, and as reported by Business Daily. According to Segun, Airtel Africa has acquired 5G spectrum in Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria and Zambia, meaning it now has the capacity to offer high-speed internet to customers who need faster speeds beyond what 5G offers.
South Africa is suspiciously missing from the list.
“On the 5G rollout, we’ve acquired spectrum in a number of countries. Tanzania, Zambia, Kenya, and Nigeria, of course. We’re going to do a selective rollout of the 5G,” Segun Ogunsanya said.
As seen, these are some key markets in Africa, and Airtel reports that the decision to choose them first has been motivated by market dynamics, such as the ability of customers to afford 5G devices, and meeting the fees associated with 5G packages.
At the same time, Airtel will not launch 5G in all parts of Kenya: similar to Safaricom, it will target select areas in some cities. This approach has further been made better by Safaricom, which has gone beyond offering just 5G, but 5G Wi-Fi to customers who have access to the network.
For now, Airtel Kenya has not mentioned the specific areas that will be targeted at first, but Nairobi, Mombasa, and Kisumu are obvious choices.
5G smartphones are getting affordable in the country thanks to the likes of MediaTek, which has been at the forefront of making affordable 5G chips. The Taiwanese tech giant works with telcos such as Safaricom and Airtel to make the migration to 5G smoother for consumers.
The Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) allocated 60 megahertz of spectrum in the 2600 MHz band to Safaricom for its 5G network in Kenya. It is not clear if the same has been done for Airtel Kenya. The regulator has also not made any mention of spectrum charges for 5G.