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Here’s Why 5G Devices Aren’t Flying Off the Shelves in Kenya

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Safaricom 5G network
Image courtesy Samsung

Safaricom has faced difficulty expanding its fifth-generation network and sites because of the high cost of 5G mobile phones. Presently, 5G phones in the Kenyan market go for more than Sh100,000. Since they are few and expensive, only a few retailers offer them. Even for those phones, a 5G network is still a long way off.

It is likely that the high cost of switching from 4G to 5G will discourage millions of subscribers. In order for 5G to grow significantly in retail to consumers, Safaricom expects that there must be a critical mass of handsets.

“Until handsets that can receive 5G are at a sufficient scale from an individual mobile perspective there isn’t a big need to have lots of sites that offer 5G,” Safaricom CEO Peter Ndegwa.

As opposed to 4G, which can only support 100,000 devices in the same area, 5G can support up to one million devices. 5G could achieve browsing and download speeds of about 10 to 20 times faster than those offered by 4G.

In March last year, Safaricom launched 5G sites in major urban centres. These include Nairobi, Kisumu, Kisii and Kakamega, which are places that experience heavy data traffic. For now, the telco reports it is only using the technology as a trial, and that its capital expenditures include little of it.

“What we have seen from the global experience and the companies within the overall  Vodafone/Vodacom ecosystem is that the opportunity to monetise 5G starts with the fixed wireless opportunity and that’s something that we are devoting,” Safaricom’s chief financial officer.

So we really are a long way from mass rollout of 5G in Kenya. However, mid-range and affordable gadgets are slowly getting 5G chips. So, maybe a little hope?

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