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Safaricom affirms focus on 4G over commercial 5G rollout

Kenya , 08 Jan 2021

Safaricom will prioritise 4G expansion rather than focus on 5G roll out, according to CEO Peter Ndegwa.

Ndegwa said the operator will not roll out 5G commercially “anytime soon”, and the short-term plan is to expand and improve data access for its customers by converting 2G and 3G users to 4G subscribers.

According to the Communications Authority of Kenya, at the end of September 2020 Kenya had less than 10 million 4G broadband subscriptions compared with the almost 15 million 3G broadband subscriptions in the same period.

However, Ndegwa did add that the company will still discuss 5G modality issues such as spectrum allocation with the government.

“We have tested 5G in this country. We will go through conversations on spectrum with the government in the background. But in terms of immediacy, we are not intending at this stage to go big on 5G in the near term,” he said.

Expectations were that Safaricom would begin to roll out 5G in Kenya in early 2021. In January 2020 the company alluded to testing the technology in partnership with Huawei.

Safaricom was initially projected to be one of the early adopters of 5G in Africa considering the operator installed a TubeStar base station in the Clayworks region of Nairobi less than a year after Huawei launched the TubeStar innovative macro base station solution.

But Ndegwa said Safaricom still sees “so much headroom to exploit and fully utilise 4G before going into 5G”.

Tech analyst Wale Oladapo said: “It all boils down to individual operators blocking out the 5G frenzy talking points and deciding what is best for their business. I believe they all would first strive to generate as much revenue as they can from their investments in 4G especially now that 4G devices are ubiquitous before going for 5G.”

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