In December 2014, Safaricom unveiled its 4G LTE Advanced for mobile networks in a strategic push to democratize data promising to offer peak speeds of up to 100Mbps, more than twice the speed offered on 3G.
Though the firm pitched to customers how 4G LTE would make downloads and uploads of files faster with buffer-free streaming of audio and video, the issue of cost was left out and came back to haunt East Africa’s largest telco.
Nearly two years later, the firm announced it has implemented a 36% reduction in data pricing to encourage mobile data uptake. It also launched My Data Manager, a tool to empower customers to have control over their data spending by simply dialing *544#.
The telco is also prompting subscribers to move to 4G by giving them a free 4 GB bundle as well as free SIM Swaps for customers with 3G SIM cards.
In May, Safaricom said in its full year results that it saw a 7 percent growth in its mobile data revenue to Kshs 21.2bn, over half of its total revenue that year due to affordable smartphones. It said there were about 8m Safaricom customers using smartphones out of which just 0.7m had 4G-enabled devices ; the rest were on 3G. To address this, the company has devices optimized for the 4G experience, including the Neon Turbo 7 and the Samsung Z2.
With the launch of 4G in 30 counties, Safaricom might see its data revenues double to about Ksh 42b. It’s also investing heavily into the rollout of additional 500 4G base stations to bring its 3G and 4G footprint to more than 4,600 sites. Data is the future.
“We have experienced a 77 percent increase in mobile data usage per customer, with overall smartphone ownership more than doubling. Our continuing initiatives to enhance the network experience will ensure that we continue to progress our vision to democratize data for all Kenyans,” concluded Sylvia Mulinge, Director – Consumer Business, Safaricom.