After the Safaricom launch in Kenya, what next for 5G in Africa?

Commercial 5G networks have been rolled out in Kenya and South Africa and are being tested elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa, but wide deployment appears to be a few years away. Enterprise systems such as IoT are likely to be on the vanguard of initial applications.

The real-time hologram presentation with two Safaricom employees in Kisumu at the end of March was meant to be a precursor to what 5G would bring in Kenya, and throughout Africa  – hyperfast mobile transmission speeds that will enable a range of emerging-technology applications.

From Kisumu, the Safaricom officials appeared via hologram at the launch event in Nairobi, where CEO Peter Ndegwa spoke to them in a demonstration of the potential of  high-speed mobile internet communications. With the launch, Kenya became the second country after South Africa in sub-Saharan Africa to offer 5G commercially and as the Kisumu presentation suggests, it has come with great promise.

"We expect to go into ecosystems such as health, education, agriculture, financial services and enabling SMEs using technology," Ndegwa said. "The network brings an era of intelligent connectivity and will be a key driver in this strategy."

Though enterprise applications are expected to take off before consumer adoption, the question for technology executives remains: How long will it be before 5G applications can be widely deployed?

5G targets densely populated areas

5G is a term for an array of standards and technologies that have the potential of providing transmission speeds up to 20 times faster than 4G. 5G can support up to 1 million connected devices per square kilometre, 10 times that of 4G, Safaricom noted in the announcement of the rollout. This makes 5G suitable for densely populated areas, and for linking connected devices in manufacturing and supply-chain environments, it said.

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