Kenya: Safaricom Testing High Speed Data Service

Technology & Convergence

Kenya's largest mobile phone service provider, Safaricom, is still in the process of testing a high speed downlink packet access (HS-DPA) to enable its subscribers to enjoy faster downloads of music, video and email to their cell phones.

The company's Chief Executive Officer, Michael Joseph, says the service, which is commonly known as 3.5G, is currently on a 12-month trial period, having been officially launched in November last year.

"During the trial we will decide whether to apply for a full 3G license and convert the trial network to a commercial one," says Joseph.

3.5G is the world's most advanced commercial wireless technology offering speeds of 1.8 megabits per second which is five times faster than the first 3G network.

"The pilot project will enable us see the justification of this kind of business, then we can apply to get a permit," says Joseph. "Safaricom, which controls around 65 percent of Kenya's mobile market, hopes that through the 3G network there will be a raise in subscriber levels."

The 3G network will also require the company to establish 250 base stations at a cost of Ksh12,4bn to accommodate the new technology. The stations will be based in Eastern and Western provinces, North and South Rift Valley regions and Nairobi, with each station costing just under $300 000.

Business in Africa Johannesburg, April 23, 2007