Safaricom CEO Peter Ndegwa. Safaricom's deployment of fifth generation (5G) makes Kenya the second after South Africa to embrace the technology in Africa.

Tech giant Safaricom has switched on 5G connectivity offering customers in Nairobi, Kisumu, Kisii and Kakamega internet speeds of up to 700 megabits per second.

The move, which makes Kenya the second country on the continent after South Africa to deploy 5G, has been years in the making as Safaricom switched customers from 2G, 3G and later 4G internet capability.

“With 5G, we aim to empower our customers with super-fast internet at work, at home and when on the move, supplementing our growing fibre network. At Safaricom, we are proud to be the first in the country and the region to bring this latest innovation to both our retail and enterprise customers empowering them to start exploring new opportunities that 5G provides,” said Peter Ndegwa, CEO, Safaricom.

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At the moment, Safaricom’s internet connectivity network has grown with 3G currently at 94 per cent and 4G at 92 per cent. 

The launch of 5G technology, which is currently at trial phase, is set to see the company invest in supporting infrastructure across the country as it eyes upgrading internet speeds to 1,000 megabits per second.

Safaricom plans to set up antennas in 150 sites across nine towns in Kenya in the next 12 months to help subscribers tap into the service.

However, not all smartphones in use today have been configured to receive the 5G signal. At the moment, only customers using the Huawei Mate 30 Pro and P40 models can enjoy the super-fast internet speeds.

By April 2021, however, Safaricom subscribers using Nokia 8.3, Samsung Galaxy S21 series, Samsung Galaxy Z Fold2 and Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G will start tapping into the new service, the company said.

“5G technology will usher increased internet speeds and capabilities for millions across the country, laying a strong foundation for a new generation of innovators and entrepreneurs,” said Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of ICT, Joe Mucheru.

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The fast internet service, which is likely to increase data usage for subscribers, opens up fresh opportunities for businesses, enabling them quicker access to online marketplaces, gain new customers while also helping the advancement of digital technologies such as virtual reality, cloud gaming, use of drones as well as the automation of various industrial processes.

Safaricom is turning to 5G technology, which can support about a million connected devices per square kilometer, to provide fast internet speeds in high density areas in the country.

In contrast, 4G can only support about 100,000 connected devices in a similar area.

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