Safaricom, a Kenyan telecommunications provider, has become the first firm in the East African area to roll out the technology commercially. The launch of Safaricom’s 5G high-speed internet service in Kenya makes Safaricom the first company in the region to do so.
The 5G service, which Nokia and Huawei backs, is said to be a key component of Safaricom’s efforts to expand its data business further to offset slower growth in voice revenues, with the company aiming to target residences and commercial offices in areas not currently served by its fibre network.
But the International Data Corporation (IDC) says that in the second quarter of this year, 80% of the mobile devices sent to Africa cost less than $200.
This shows that people in Africa don’t have much money to spend, and it will be a while before the average smartphone user in Africa can afford a 5G device. Kenya has about 41 million subscribers, but only about 200,000 are 5G devices, which is 0.5% of all subscribers.
According to the IDC, 7.6% of smartphone shipments into Africa in the second quarter of this year were 5G devices. This is minimal compared to the 18.5% and 73.9% of smartphone shipments that were 3G and 4G devices, respectively.
Safaricom says it will work with phone sellers to offer users financing options to solve this problem.
5G smartphones aren’t being used as much as they could be, mainly because they are expensive. Peter Ndegwa, Safaricom’s Chief Executive Officer, said, “We will continue to work with our partners who sell or supply devices and use our pay-as-you-go financing options to make 4G and 5G smartphones more affordable.”
The 5G network has been marketed as having faster transmission speeds and lower latency, implying a bigger capacity for remote execution. However, because of the high equipment cost and the nation’s limited purchasing power, it is evident that 5G will take some time to become mainstream throughout the African continent.