Safaricom, in collaboration with Huawei, Nokia and Samsung, has unveiled its 5G network in Kenya, joining South Africa as Sub-Saharan countries advancing the technology.
According to CEO Peter Ndegwa, the new technology will allow organisations to venture into areas such as telemedicine, online gaming, virtual tourism and digital education.
“Safaricom is proud to be pioneering this technology in Kenya. This places Kenya on the global map in leading the way in enabling connectivity through investment in the 5G infrastructure,” Ndegwa said during the launch. “The next phase on our journey is to become a purpose led technology company and continue driving innovation and we expect to go into ecosystems such as health, education, agriculture, financial services and enabling SME’s using technology.”
He added: “The 5G network will allow an era of intelligent connectivity and will be a key driver of this strategy.”
Kenya joins 106 markets across the globe in launching commercial 5G networks, Ndegwa continued.
Cabinet Secretary of Information, Communication and Technology, Joe Mucheru said that the move has ushered in the 4IR by providing faster connectivity to business and individuals alike.
Mucheru said the government emphasizes the role of 5G in healthcare and said it is significant in the roll out of universal healthcare for all Kenyans.
A 2019 GSMA report titled 5G in Sub-Saharan Africa: laying the foundations highlighted the slow adoption of 5G in Africa stating that its mass use will no be witnessed before 2025.
“5G in Sub-Saharan Africa is inevitable; it is a natural progression from previous technology generations. However, the 5G era is not imminent in most markets in the region as existing technologies are capable of supporting current use cases and demand for mobile internet connectivity,” the report said.
However, Safaricom remains focused on developing its 4G network throughout the country.
Ndegwa said 4G penetration sits at 92% and the target is 100% by the end of the year.
For 4G smartphones, the company has recorded only 20% penetration in the country, Ndegwa added, indicating the connectivity gap in the 4G sector.
He added that availability of 5G enabled devices will also dictate the adoption of the new network.
The 5G network will be available in Nairobi and Kisumu before being rolled out nationally.