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Safaricom surpasses Airtel Kenya’s 5G sites by 113, aims for 1,700

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The news: 

  • Safaricom has surpassed its rival Airtel Kenya in the deployment of fifth-generation (5G) technology for the first time. 
  • In Safaricom’s newly released annual report, the telco stated that it had activated up to 803 5G sites by the end of March 2024, overtaking the 690 currently run by Airtel. 
  • This achievement is a result of Safaricom”s aggressive rollout efforts, highlighting the escalating competition between the two companies in the rapidly expanding data market.

The new development is an interesting turn of events as Airtel boasted 370 locations supporting the 5G technology in 2023, way more than the 205 reported by Safaricom in the same year.

This suggests that Safaricom activated an additional 598 new sites in a year, slightly surpassing its set target by 3.

Following the newly activated sites, Safaricom claims to have now expanded its 5G coverage to 43 out of Kenya’s 47 counties, an improvement from the 23 it served in 2023.

Airtel, on the other hand, added only 320 sites during the same period, expanding its coverage to 39 counties in the East African nation. The telecom provider had initially planned to add 100 more 5G sites to its network and expand to 32 counties and 221 wards.

Since its 5G service activation in March 2021 and subsequent launch in October 2022, Safaricom has significantly expanded its network access.

“Our aim is to continue increasing the empowerment of our customers with super-fast internet at work, at home, and on the move, by supplementing our growing fibre network,” part of the report read. 

As Safaricom looks to maintain its current position, the telco revealed its target for the next year to include expanding its current sites to more than 1,700.

Compared to the widely available 4G technology, 5G is much faster, though it requires more high-end smart devices and expensive data bundles, both of which are inaccessible to most African subscribers.

Airtel, Kenya’s second-largest telco, first unveiled the 5G mobile broadband network mid 2023.

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In June 2024, however, Airtel unveiled a 5G-enabled router with the potential to eliminate the need for subscribers to purchase costly 5G-ready smartphones. This development was expected to speed up the slow uptake of the 5G network service.

Per the data from the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA), the country’s communications regulator, mobile data subscribers onboarded to the 5G network increased by 74% from  373,537 to 653,716 during the 12 months to last March 2024.

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