Safaricom 3G vs Orange 3G – Who is faster?

It was going to come to this at some point. It was inevitable. Who is faster in Kenya? Orange 3G or Safaricom 3G? Orange Kenya launched its 3G services in August 2011, almost 2 months ago. Meanwhile. Safaricom have had 3G services for close to 3 years. However, Orange launched their 3G service with speeds of up to 21mb. Safaricom also shortly thereabouts launched their faster 3G service which is also capable of speeds of 21mb. In the case of Safaricom, one had/has to buy the newer dongles that support the faster speeds.

Initially, it seemed, the Orange 3G service was spotty and did not live up to expectations as many on the network were unable to sustain 3G speeds with the network dropping off erratically to EDGE speeds. As of this writing, the Orange 3G service seems to be much better. At the same time, I have been on Safaricom 3G on the newer dongle recently and initially the speed bump was good but lately its not that impressive. I’m not sure what is going wrong but the Safaricom 3G speeds have generally become significantly slower over the last few weeks.

So, using the new Safaricom 3G dongle and the Orange 3G dongle, both of which are supposed to go as fast as 21mb, I did a speed test as below and these were the results:

Safaricom Speed Test


Orange Speed Test



It would appear that Orange 3G is significantly faster than the Safaricom 3G. These tests were done at around the same time so they are more or less accurate. It could be that Orange having much fewer subscribers than Safaricom has excess capacity that means it’s a lot faster. At the same time, Safaricom could have over sold its capacity meaning everyone is competing for limited bandwidth. Whatever the case, as of this writing, Orange 3G clearly has the edge on Safaricom 3G.




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  1. johnie
    October 15, 2011 at 1:39 pm — Reply

    i’ve tried the orange 3G, it goes on and off, here at KU. Something i would recommend is the Airtel Ke, its very impressive and the pricing is friendly too, at 50 bob unlimited daily, worth checking out.

    • October 15, 2011 at 3:30 pm — Reply

      @johnie. Ok. Noted. We will do a comparison of all 3G services soon.

    • October 17, 2011 at 8:05 am — Reply

      That is very true for Airtel 3G, For the first time I have had 3G speeds of 1.2mbps at 50bob a day UNLIMITED& that Orange 3G has a weak signal.

      Thanks to Aitel 3G, I have been on the internet daily for a month now at 50bob a day!

      • dewao
        November 6, 2011 at 2:39 pm — Reply

        The Airtel 3G is pretty awesome. I have experienced downlink speeds of 3.1Mbps and download rates of 367Kb/s.

  2. October 15, 2011 at 2:12 pm — Reply

    Mr Kemibaro. Could you also highlight the coverage of the services. Which other towns in Kenya does the Orange 3G cover?

    • October 15, 2011 at 3:31 pm — Reply

      @mwogi good suggestion. We will see what we can do.

  3. ping
    October 16, 2011 at 7:13 am — Reply

    Moses the ping tests clearly show Safaricom is faster to reply to your requests! Downloads are then subject to many other factors as where you are are you moving while downloading. how many users on the network etc.
    I d prefer a more technically controlled test . Otherwise its good to see someone putting to test so called 3G networks!

  4. Brian
    October 16, 2011 at 12:15 pm — Reply

    Of late Safaricom have had several intermittent service interruptions & system maintenance especially overnight during weekends. Maybe they’re upgrading but don’t say so on the e-mails they send to Business (WiMAX) Customers. But I’ve noticed the speeds are not what is advertised. Really grinds my gears when ISPs advertise using theoretical speeds. As an IT person keeps getting asked if so & so is better because of how they ‘misleadingy’ sell their product. But good on Orange. On another note, have Airtel rolled out 3G everywhere or just certain areas? I’m near Westlands but phone still shows ‘E’ for EDGE

    • October 16, 2011 at 4:30 pm — Reply

      @brian apparently Airtel 3G is still on pilot or testing. Its expected to go live within next month or two.

    • October 17, 2011 at 8:16 am — Reply


      Airtel 3G is in westlands. I was there on friday& the signal was perfect all the way to Lions Place where I had gone to KISS offices.

      You may need to change your settings to WCDMA only.

  5. abdullahi hagi aden
    October 17, 2011 at 7:45 am — Reply

    i am really having safaricom its all most better option in internet but these days its very slow i dont know the problem.
    but orange i will try once if its okey will be in ur side

  6. R. Shah
    October 17, 2011 at 7:59 am — Reply

    Moses. I’ve tried safaricom, airtel and orange. Yes orange speeds at the moment are fantastically fast however their network coverage is dreadful at the moment

    Airtel – cheap and good speeds but once you clock passed 1.4mbs, it disconnects. Repeated disconnections

    Safaricom – slower than the rest especially on the unlimited bundle. I suspect the speeds are throttled. barely manage to get about 500kbs.

    All above tested on a zte k4505 21.1mbs modem.

  7. October 17, 2011 at 8:02 am — Reply


    Firstly, it’s true Orange 3G is faster where there is a 3G signal& it’s limited hata Nairobi yenyewe is not fully covered(Check even on Orange’s wall on facebook guys complaining of the same.)

    But I don’t know what modem you are using to test those speeds? I have a K4605& it pushes those speeds to the limit& Safaricom did register to me 8Mbps as opposed to your result above there& Orange did an impressive 10Mbps.

    But hold on, who would want to have a Ferrari with a litre of petrol?(Orange 3G is limited to bundles only so it’s a thumbs down for me.)

    Safaricom on the other hand has unlimited at 512kbps, yes it’s slow, but do you know Airtel 3G has been with us for a month now? With wider coverage than Orange 3G& a strong signal I can compare it with Safaricom?

    I’m browsing at 1.2mbps at only 300 a week& it’s truely UNLIMITED!!!!!! I know there are cases where it disconnects but you need to be smart& think out of the box. Get NetBalacer& throttle your speeds so that they don’t reach the disconnection limit.

    Mine disconnects at 1.5mbps& so I have throttled it at 1.2mbps& it’s working perfect& cost effective.

    At the end of the day it’s not going to be who’s faster but who is providing a realiable service at the best speeds that is cost effective too!

    I suggested to Orange that if 3G+ offers 990/- a week at 3.1mbps, why not have the same with 3G?

    Give us;
    1mbps at 300/- a week
    2mbps at 500/- a week
    3mbps at 990/- a week

    And it’s only speed bundles that are going to be the catch here& not the data bundles or prices.

    If Airtel will keep it at that, 50bob a day& 300 a week, believe me, by next year we will be speaking of something different.

    • Edwin
      May 1, 2012 at 10:35 am — Reply

      This comment, for me, has been the most helpful…

  8. October 17, 2011 at 10:49 am — Reply

    Airtel doesn’t offer 3G. Orange’s partnership with Samsung offering the Galaxy S II and Galaxy Tab is the way to go despite the connection glitches. As a developer of rich mobile apps I’d say their effort in the way of modernizing the Telcos arena and offering smart phones and tablets to Kenyans is commendable.

  9. October 17, 2011 at 6:56 pm — Reply

    I second results of your test. I own both 21mbps modems. Both 21mbps data belts for Safaricom and Orange are limited but my Safaricom is slower than my Orange all times I’ve tried.
    Orange is the new king of data And Safaricom the new master of glib http://t.co/VLgdp4E

  10. October 20, 2011 at 9:39 am — Reply

    i think the problem with orange is their network strength.I rarely receive full network.while for airtel i only get 2g network.not quite sure what the problem might be,so am still using safaricom.

  11. tony
    October 27, 2011 at 10:06 am — Reply

    Am using orange 3G+ in kasarani and the speeds are nothing to write home about. But when I use the same modem on Mombasa road the speed rises 200%. So there is the location factor.

    Also note that if you are expiriencing high speeds on your modem the last thing you wana do is brag about it coz that only attracts others to the network. The increased traffic will soon bog it down and you’ll then be saying, “that modem used to be so fast some months ago but now…”.

    Be bandwidth selfish. Dont advertise.

    The problem is that we are using shared bandwidth. Your connection is only as good as the number of people on it. Even a ferrari cannot attain 300km/h if its carrying a ton of waruu in the back.

    The country should now be looking into dedicated lines If any meaningfull development is to take place in the IT sector.

    Some years back i heard of KPLC speculating on the feasibility of using their infrastructure to deliver highspeed bandwidth to homes. It was a marvelous idea. Think about it. Your own point to point connection to the ISP (which is not dial-up). Note its this user to ISP connection that is shared and thus makes the speeds low. If KPLC could use their infrastructure to implement a special cable to in any way connect you directly to an ISP then the speeds would be left to the imagination. Now imagine that cable being a fibre optic one(might cost extra, and it should for data transmitted in the speed of light). The question would be what couldnt you not do on such a connection.

  12. Ochung
    November 9, 2011 at 4:07 pm — Reply

    From experience, orange 3G+ still tops it all! It gives speeds of up to 3Mbps on a good day and is very stable so far…

  13. ghost
    December 30, 2011 at 6:17 pm — Reply

    the issue with Safcom is that they limit to 512kbps which is something they never say when selling you a “3G 7.2mbps/21.1mbps” modem. What’s the point?? Anyway, Safcom is a rip-off. Oh lest I forget, I can barely even get the 512kbps they offer. On a good day (or night), we’re talking 340kbps max!

  14. mike
    February 25, 2012 at 1:21 pm — Reply

    off late safaricom 3g service is becomin pathetic nowdays. IT disconnects every time and takes a century to connect. wat a pathetic service safcom. pull up your socks no wonder profits are declining.

  15. Hamdhan
    March 22, 2012 at 6:50 pm — Reply

    I got Orange a few days back. the speeds are average 7-10mbps! yes mbps!! Youtube streams in 1080p HD!!! VERY COOL! ZTE 21mbps modem gets the job done!!

    Everyone should get orange ASAP. Forget about safaricom!

  16. Mugi
    June 19, 2012 at 8:31 pm — Reply

    How is airtel 21mb service compared to safaricom 21mb?
    I use saf but it always disconnects of me.May be its the Huawei E1820 Safcom use……What Modem does Airtel use for high speed 21mb?

  17. trivas
    August 26, 2012 at 10:43 am — Reply

    i dont think any of them are reliable.given the fact that the speeds are determined by the number of people its safe to say that it will a matter of time before they all come to the same level. The promises they give are false and as i write this im using the much advertised 3.75g 21mbs airtel modem having had enough of safaricom (was becoming too expensive). My modem barely a week old has given me alot of trouble with it dropping connection or barely keeping a connection. For some reason its stuck on edge and if not then it disconnects. I love my internet and this has been a great disappointment. I think isps in kenya need to shape up and also need a body to regulate them as they are taking advantage of the consumers .
    The fibre optic dream is in shambles as the charges are just too high and there seems to be no solution in sight (that is unless you are a cooperate entity and your milking money). Kenya is progressing far too slowly with the demand for internet rising.

  18. MarkJon
    September 12, 2012 at 11:39 am — Reply

    Got an Orange modem 21.1Mbps recently, got a month of free net. On day 1 it was averaging 460kBps thats (3.68Mbps). 5 days later the story has completely changed am literally capped at 32kBps (256kbps). I would have loved to stay on orange if they were consistent with their speed but this is a temptation to unlock their plastic slug

  19. Asha
    May 6, 2013 at 12:14 pm — Reply

    Safcom is shitty always slower and disconnecting…every time i use Orange NO COMPLAINTS SO FAR!!

  20. Jambo
    May 25, 2013 at 3:33 pm — Reply

    Where I can find some maps to compare covarage 3G booth of them?

  21. Frank
    January 15, 2014 at 10:20 pm — Reply

    Orange is the best… if you can manage to find a place with a HSPA+ connection it will do even 7MBps…it’s also quite cheap at

    10GB -999
    20GB -2999

    I’ve been a loyal subscriber 3 years and so far no complaints…

  22. April 15, 2014 at 6:22 pm — Reply

    I have a slightly different – but no less pressing – problem. I have been using both Safaricom and Orange 3G Huawei modems with my HP 2000 series and Win7. A few days ago, without any warning, the laptop seems to have just rejected both modems(they work fine on my Toshiba Satellite with Win7) . I have un-installed and re-installed both several times with no success. I am at my wits end. Please help!

    • May 18, 2014 at 8:34 am — Reply

      @martin apologies for not reverting sooner – I just hadn’t time to do some blogging. I presume you got this issue sorted out?

      • May 18, 2014 at 8:54 am — Reply

        Moses, not yet. I would be glad if u could assist


        • May 21, 2014 at 11:07 am — Reply

          @martin I do not actually have a solution. Sorry.

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