Airtel Kenya has officially launched its 5G network, becoming the second telecom operator in the country to introduce the next-generation technology. The rollout follows months of testing and comes after Safaricom introduced 5G services in October 2022.
Earlier this year, Airtel Kenya expanded its network to meet the growing demand for data services and had previously announced its plans to launch 5G. The network will be available at over 370 active 5G sites across 16 Kenyan counties and 180 wards nationwide.
During the announcement event, Airtel Kenya Managing Director Ashish Malhotra highlighted the transformative impact of 5G across various sectors, including smart cities, education, healthcare, agriculture, transport systems, and entertainment. The company aims to revolutionize online gaming, live streaming, and content uploads and downloads by offering ultra-fast real-time connectivity.
In terms of pricing, Airtel will sell 5G-supported routers to consumers for 10,000 Kenyan Shillings ($71), while businesses can obtain them for free. In comparison, Safaricom charges 25,000 Kenyan Shillings ($177) for a similar device. Airtel will also provide 5G home broadband connections to residential homes and businesses in Kenya, with plans starting at 3,500 Kenyan Shillings ($25) for 10 Mbit/s. Higher speeds will be available at different price points, with 30 Mbit/s priced at 5,500 Kenyan Shillings ($39) and 50 Mbit/s at 7,500 Kenyan Shillings ($53).
Airtel Kenya, with nearly 17.7 million mobile users, holds approximately 27% of the market share, making it the second-largest telecom operator in the country. Safaricom, the market leader, controls nearly 67% of the mobile market with around 43.6 million mobile users. Telkom Kenya ranks third with 3.6 million mobile customers, while Jamii Telecommunications holds less than 1% market share with just 360,600 subscribers.
The deployment of 5G services by Airtel Kenya aligns with the trend seen across the African continent. Airtel Nigeria launched its 5G services in June, following the introduction of the first commercial 5G service in The Gambia by QCell. Vodacom Mozambique also joined the 5G landscape in May. According to GSMA, more than 10 African countries already have commercial 5G services, and more are expected to launch by 2025.
Ericsson estimates that sub-Saharan Africa had 3 million 5G subscriptions by the end of 2022, and this number is projected to reach 140 million by 2028, accounting for 13% of total connections in the region. With Airtel Kenya’s 5G launch, the country takes another step toward embracing the potential of this transformative technology