The Current & Future State of Safaricom 5G In Kenya.
It’s been approximately 8 months since Safaricom 5G was officially launched in Kenya with much fanfare. Safaricom is still the only 5G-enabled mobile network in the country and it seems that this will remain the status quo for the better part of the rest year.
This in itself is not an entirely new thing in terms of being first to market in Kenya as is often the case with Safaricom who also launched 2.5G or EDGE, 3G, and 4G network capabilities first to the market. As the saying goes, mapema ndio best (early is best) when it comes to the outsized behemoth that is Safaricom launching new offerings in Kenya.
At the time Safaricom launched 5G in October 2022, it had 35 active sites in Kisumu, Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisii, and Kakamega with plans to expand that to 100 sites by March 2023 across the country in major cities and towns. From the onset, it was clearly evident that Safaricom was prioritizing 5G for fixed Wi-Fi service in homes and offices where the need would be greatest. This made complete sense since although Kenya had 27 million active smartphones last year only 200,000 of these had 5G capabilities.
Safaricom launched its 5G offerings with a range of Wi-Fi routers from NOKIA and TCL that could support it for Kes. 25,000.00 with a connection fee of Kes. 5,000.00 for a total investment of Kes. 30,000.00. However, Safaricom also came up with a payment plan for 36 months to acquire a 5G Wi-Fi router which clearly must have gotten lots of people and businesses signed up.
To make Safaricom 5G uptake even more practical at launch, Safaricom also created dedicated 5G Wi-Fi data packages for their 5G routers valid for 30 days specifically for the service as follows:
The other major factor for 5G adoption in Kenya is that the mobile handsets that support it are still too expensive for the majority of Kenyan consumers to consider so this will ensure uptake is modest for the foreseeable future. However, by April 2023, there were over 400,000 5G-enabled mobile handsets on its network in Kenya and by then Safaricom announced that its 5G coverage had expanded to 28 towns across 21 counties in Kenya including Kilifi, Kwale, Nakuru, Laikipia, Uasin Gishu, Garissa, Kericho and Marsabit.
Safaricom then also introduced 5G data bundles for mobile handsets which are based on usage and are available on Tunukiwa via the MySafaricom App, Safaricom.com, and USSD *444# or *544#. The Safaricom 5G data bundles for mobile handsets are as follows:
In order to get Kenyans to experience Safaricom 5G, Safaricom recently launched three 5G experience centers in Nairobi located at its Village Market, The Hub Karen, and Buruburu Shops. These locations contain virtual reality gaming zones as well as showcase use cases for Safaricom 5G in homes and businesses as well as speed-testing booths. I personally had a chance to try this out at the Hub Karen can you can see below just how mind-blowingly fast Safaricom 5G actually can be:
The most significant advantage of Safaricom’s 5G network is its lightning-fast speeds. With download speeds reaching up to 1Gbps, it outperforms its predecessors, 4G and 3G, by a considerable margin. This means that you can stream videos, download large files, and play online games with minimal buffering and lag. With peak data rates of up to 20Gbps, 5G users can expect average download speeds of around 1Gbps, which is about 10 times faster than 4G.
Businesses can also benefit from the increased productivity and efficiency that comes with this new level of connectivity. Whereas we once found 3G incredibly fast compared to 2.5G or EDGE and thereafter found 4G much faster, 5G is on a whole new level when compared to any of its predecessors. For me, what this ultimately means is getting more done faster and even better when you have Internet speeds that are this fast. However, one caveat I have noticed is that in addition to using up bundles faster 5G also uses mobile battery life at a much faster rate than 4G and your device also tends to heat up. Its a caveat for sure but when you feel the need for Internet speed Safaricom 5G has you covered.
One of the most notable improvements in 5G technology is its reduced latency. Latency refers to the time it takes for data to travel from one point to another. With 5G, latency is cut down to a mere 1 millisecond, making real-time communication and online gaming experiences smoother than ever. This also opens up new possibilities for innovative applications in various industries, such as healthcare, transportation, and entertainment. The truth is we are still years away from fully understanding how Safaricom 5G could transform life and work as we know it in Kenya as these are really early days but eventually, we will all figure out its true benefits.
Safaricom’s 5G network is designed to handle a greater volume of data traffic compared to previous generations. This increased capacity allows more users to connect to the network without compromising speed and performance. In urban areas, where network congestion is common, 5G will ensure that everyone can stay connected without any hiccups. 5G uses network slicing, which allows Safaricom to create multiple virtual networks within a single physical network. This enables more efficient use of network resources and tailored connectivity for specific applications or user groups.
This is something I can already notice on the days I find 5G coverage in Nairobi which is still spotty, to be honest, but instantly noticeable when you have large data demands that require you to upload or download gigabytes of content. It’s quite simply magical when you need it, almost like that same feeling of using fast charging on your mobile device.
5G technology is a game-changer for the Internet of Things (IoT) and smart cities. With faster speeds, lower latency, and increased capacity, 5G enables the seamless integration of devices, sensors, and systems in real time. This interconnectivity will pave the way for smart homes, traffic management systems, and other IoT applications that enhance our daily lives and make our cities more efficient. You can imagine a future when critical digital infrastructure in our lives and work is connected in this manner using Safaricom 5G which will open up all sorts of incredible possibilities. Mark my words, things will be different, kwa ground (on the ground), for anyone and everyone.
Safaricom’s 5G network is undoubtedly a game-changer for Kenya. With its numerous benefits, including faster speeds, lower latency, increased capacity, and improved reliability, it is set to revolutionize the way we communicate, work, and interact with our surroundings. As Safaricom continues to expand its 5G coverage across the country, more and more Kenyans will experience the power of this groundbreaking technology. It’s still as nascent as they come from a technology perspective but get ready to embrace the future and make the switch to Safaricom 5G today!