Airtel will introduce its fifth generation (5G) mobile broadband service in high-income neighbourhoods, which it says have the gadgets and purchasing power to benefit from the faster internet speeds.
The new technology is much faster compared to the current widely available 4G. It, however, requires more expensive smartphones and the pricing of the data is also still out of reach of the majority. “On the 5G rollout, we’ve acquired spectrum in a number of countries. Tanzania, Zambia, Kenya, and Nigeria, of course. We’re going to do a selective rollout of the 5G,” Segun Ogunsanya, the chief executive of Airtel Africa said in a recent conference call.
“I still believe that 5G is good in the medium term. In the short-term, our focus will continue to be on expanding our 4G footprint, and selectively launching 5G to capture opportunities in high-income neighbourhoods.”
Airtel Africa is the parent firm of several telecommunications companies operating in the continent including Airtel Kenya.
Mr Ogunsanya said the introduction of 5G in the markets where the multinational has acquired spectrum will be in selected key cities “where we recognise enough devices and enough purchasing power to really enjoy the benefits of 5G.”
Safaricom, which was the first to offer 5G services, has also prioritised areas with a high concentration of rich and middle-class subscribers in setting up the sites. They include Nairobi’s Kileleshwa, Muthaiga, Karen, Lavington, Two Rivers Mall and Nakuru’s Greensteds International School.
The telcos expect a major transition from the 4G technology to happen gradually. Most 5G-ready phones are priced from Sh25,000 to more than Sh150,000, making them unaffordable to the majority of consumers.
They include mid to high-end devices from technology firms such as Apple and Samsung. Safaricom launched its 5G services with introductory offers ranging from Sh3,499 to Sh14,999 per month depending on the speed and data volume in the packages.
“It is anticipated that the majority of Kenya’s mobile connections will be on 5G by 2029 and our network masts are prepared for this growth. In the short term, we plan to expand the number of 5G sites to more than 200 locations across nine towns over the next year,” Safaricom said in its annual report for the year ended March 2022.