Last week marked another milestone for Safaricom with the launch of 5G network trials for its customers in Kenya. The trial, which saw the network launched in Nairobi, Kisumu, Kisumu, Kakamega, and Kisii will see additional 150 sites set up in nine towns in Kenya within the next 12 months.

Currently, the 5G network will offer speeds of 700 Mbps which will later be increased to 1000 Mbps.

This is a great step for Safaricom which prides itself in being a technology company and not just a telecommunication company.

But what is there for the users? What does it mean for Safaricom?

What can Kenyans expect from 5G that is not offered by 4G?

Is this a major disruption?

Opportunities for Safaricom

First, 5G presents a range of opportunities for Safaricom. Unlike the 4G and other networks, 5G has a very high density of up to 1 million devices per square kilometer. This helps solve the connectivity problem that arises when too many people gather together and phones can longer access the network. This also allows for a whole range of devices besides mobile phones to be connected to the network. With IoT, we can have tens or hundreds of devices in every home connected, without straining the local network.

However, this comes at a cost. Although 5G has a higher capacity than 4G, it also has a shorter range. The implication here is that Safaricom would need more Base Transmission Stations for any given area. This also means that it will take a long time before rural and sparsely populated areas get a 5G coverage.

Consequently, 4G will continue to be very vital in the foreseeable future.

Advantages of 5G for consumers

If you do not have a 4G coverage at the moment, do not expect a 5G signal soon. Investment in the Safaricom 5G network will follow market potential and areas covered with 4G network are likely going to be the ones that start getting the 5G network.

The other thing worth noting is that for smartphone users, there may be little advantage of 5G in areas where there is a good 4G coverage. The speeds are good for normal browsing and watching videos online, thus one may not notice the difference.

The real opportunity in 5G is in new use cases that have been impossible or limited due to low data transfer speeds. People will have better experience in online gaming and virtual reality could become an actual reality. This is because 5G offers high speeds and low latency.

Another use case will be a substitute a for fixed internet connection. With speeds of up to 700 Mbps, a 5G router will be all that one needs to get a good internet connection to an office or a home wirelessly. This could also reduce the installation cost and make it easier for people to get an internet connection installed quickly.
There are many other use cases, but these will come as people adapt to the new normal of 5G. Remote surveillance, automation, wireless sensor networks, self-driving vehicles, and increased adoption of cloud services are some of the fields that 5G will greatly impact.

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