Safaricom plots massive shift to data services with 100pc 4G coverage

Written By: Ronald Owili
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Safaricom Plc Chairman Nichola Nganga(L), CEO Peter Ndegwa (centre) and CFO Sateesh Kamath (R) at a past function. | Courtesy

Safaricom Chief Executive Officer Peter Ndegwa has hinted at plans that will see the giant telco shift heavy focus to mobile data services over the next twenty years as 5G comes to play.

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Ndegwa who joined Safaricom Plc on April 1st this year as its first-ever home-grown chief executive and the third man to head the firm in its 20 years of existence says data will be a core economic driver as it plans to expand its network with heavy capital investment lined up.

In a year to April 2020, revenue from its 22 million mobile data customers earned the firm a whooping Kshs 40.7 billion having registered a growth of 12.1 percent.

“In the past two decades, Safaricom has grown from a telecommunication service provider to a technology company and our customers have been a key part of this journey. We are cognizant that technology and a data-driven economy can further support Kenya’s economic growth and these will be our launchpad for the next 20 years,” said Ndegwa.

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In its 2020 Sustainability Business Report covering March 2019 to April 2020, the firm indicated that it had injected Kshs 36.1 billion to boost its network infrastructure.

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As a result, the telco says 96 percent of the population can now access its 2G network having rolled out additional 365 base stations, and deployed another 368 3G-enabled sites, especially in rural Kenya to reach 94 percent of the population.

Safaricom is now targeting to leverage on fibre optic and Long Term Evolution, commonly known as 4G, to reach at least 1 million homes and businesses over the next five years.

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According to the mobile service provider, by end of the year, it will archive 100 percent 4G access across the country by the close of 2020.

Already, Safaricom has added 1,551 4G-enabled sites to the network and extended 4G services to an additional 20 percent of the population, taking boosting access to 77 percent of the population.

The telco indicated that it plans to complete trials of its 5G network and rollout commercial 5G network sites by the end of the year, a move which is expected solidify its footprint as Kenyans largest wireless broadband service provider ahead of its peers in the market.

The firm has similarly rolled out a flexible payment plan dubbed Lipa Mdogo Mdogo to help the majority of it 35.6 million mobile subscribers purchase 4G-ready devices. Currently, it has 15 million smartphones in its network.

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‘Going beyond’

In marking 20 years since establishment on October 23rd 2003, the firm is set to roll out a Data Usage Transparency to provides customers with detailed usage statements.

Similarly, the firm targets to launch Pochi la Biashara to help M-pesa merchants separate personal and business transactions on their mobile wallets as well as a USSD code for easy access to M-pesa services.

“We plan to go beyond to new frontiers, be more present, more world-class, and enable new platforms to launch our SMEs into greater possibilities,” added Ndegwa.

Customers who have been on the network since inceptions also stand a chance to get 20GB of data as the telco marks twenty years since establishment.

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