Kenya: 4G Launched

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Kenya’s Safaricom is the first African telecommunications firm to launch the fourth generation service.

(Picture: Wikimedia Creative Commons)

Kenyan telecommunication giant, Safaricom, said on December 4th it was launching the fourth Generation (4G) LTE – the most advanced version for mobile networks, the first African telecom firm to launch the service.

“Today’s launch progresses our strategic push to democratize data. We believe in the transformative power of the internet and are keen to deliver the most advanced technologies to our subscribers in order to remain the network of choice,” said Bob Collymore, Safaricom’s Chief Executive Officer.

Safaricom customers will soon be able to watch TV online, make video calls and download content more easily, commented the Daily Nation from Nairobi.

The company will initially roll out the 4G service in Nairobi and Mombasa, before scaling up coverage in other major towns, he said, adding “The LTE Advanced network will offer peak speeds of up to 100Mbps, which is more than twice the speed offered on 3G technology. This makes it possible for customers to download and upload files faster, as well as enjoy buffer-free streaming of audio and video.

Safaricom launched Kenya’s first fourth-generation (4G) Internet services on Thursday, seeking to capitalise on burgeoning mobile Internet use in the country.

The government of the Kenyan nation of 40 million people wants the use of 4G to help raise the Internet’s contribution to economic growth to 10% in 2017 from about 3% this year, the Africa Report said.

Safaricom – Kenya’s largest telecoms phone firm – saw web data revenue rise by more than half in the six months to September. The 4G service is a central part of its attempts to further expand its data business to counter slower growth in voice calls revenue. The operator, 40%-owned by Britain’s Vodafone, signed a  Shs15 billion ($166 million) deal with the government in November to build a national security and surveillance system, and was offered the chance to buy the 4G radio spectrum – or frequencies – as part of the agreement.

Bob Collymore said the company paid $75 million for the spectrum and would roll out the 4G service countrywide within 36 months. Kenya had more than 32 million mobile subscribers in the quarter ended June, representing a penetration of about 80% of the population. Of those users, around 14 million had mobile data subscriptions.

Safaricom’s first-half pretax profit rose by almost a third to Shs 21.1 billion due partly to growth in data usage, offsetting sluggish voice revenues.

“LTE Advanced also enables ‘Carrier Aggregation’, which will allow Safaricom customers to benefit from increased bandwidth accessible through the aggregation of different LTE spectrum bands,” Collymore indicated.

According to him, “The direct impact of data on our economy has already been noted through the increasing number of businesses and services offered online. With 4G, we can deliver revolutionary services like tele-medicine, virtualization or real-time video that have immediate and transformational impact on our society.”

Alongside its network deployment, Safaricom will offer affordable internet enabled devices by leveraging on the relationships it has with global phone manufacturers.

Collymore said the firm would supply 4G-enabled devices including phones, routers and modems.Safaricom has over 3,200 base stations, nearly half of which are 3G-enabled.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin

Telecommunications: Kenya
Economic, Financial and Technical Series
Volume 51, Issue 5, July 2014

African 3G subscriptions surge
Economic, Financial and Technical Series
Volume 50, Issue 8, October 2013

Subscribe to the Africa Research Bulletin today

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