A few days after Kenya’s largest telco, Safaricom announced the launch of their 5G network, Airtel has come clean on their 5G plans as well. Through the CEO, P.D. Sarma, Airtel notes that they currently have 600 sites upgraded to 5G and ready for a switch on at a moment’s notice.
With the announcement of 600 5G-ready sites, Airtel’s partnership with Nokia (announced in December 2020) seems to have borne fruit. “These 600 sites are not 5G-ready. We don’t have to make any further modification to the network. We will just get the spectrum and decide when to switch on,” said P.D. Sarma while speaking to Business Daily Africa.
The 5G Network Rat Race Happening in Kenya
In what is looking like a race of “we did it first“, rumours of Safaricom’s 5G network started in January last year, with some news outlets in Kenya reporting that the new generation network would go live at the end of that month. Well, this did not happen and Safaricom launched 5G in March 2021, which strangely, was three months after the telco came out to the public saying that they had cancelled their 5G plans to focus on regional expansion.
Safaricom reports that it has 5G network in Nairobi and some parts of Western Kenya including Kisumu, Kisii and Bungoma. Unfortunately, the network is still not available to the general public. The telco, however, plans to expand this to 150 sites within a year.
Airtel, on the other hand, claims to have the network in Nairobi, Mombasa and Malindi covered by the 600 sites and just like their competitor Safaricom, the network still remains out of reach for the general public until further notice. Airtel says that they are not in a hurry to launch 5G as the market is not ready for it, citing that 5G devices are still very expensive.
“The 5G handsets right now are obviously very costly and see few buys. We feel that a reasonable price will start coming in one and a half to two years. That is the time we feel we will be able to switch on our 5G network, But if things happen faster, we are ready for it,” added P.D. Sarma.
Airtel’s announcement brings the number of 5G networks in the country to two. a huge bragging right to say the least. The next question now is, who will be next to tell us about their 5G network that we can’t access yet?