Safaricom has introduced 4G+ or 4.5G aka LTE-A (LTE-Advanced) which is a faster version of 4G with capacity to allow carrier aggregation or allows any 4G phone to receive data from multiple bands in the 4G spectrum unlike ordinary 4G which only uses one band at a time.
4G+ is also more than six times faster than standard 4G and yes, it costs more too.
In December 2014, Safaricom was the first operator in Kenya to roll out 4G trials and two years later acquired its 4G licence. Since then, the firm has grown its 4G footprint to over 1,100 sites across Kenya.
In a move to beat out the competition, such as Airtel and the recent entry of Jamii Telecoms,Te the firm has activated 4G+ at 100 sites in Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, as well as parts of Kisii, Naivasha, Kitui, Machakos, Kakamega and Kericho, with more territories scheduled to be switched on in coming months.
Technically, 4G+ technology allows peak download speeds of 150Mbps, while 4G enables top speeds of between 60-100Mbps. In practical terms, this means that a 30-minute HD video should take a little over two minutes to download on 4G+, while the same video would take around eight minutes to download on standard 4G, such as that being trialed on other networks in the country.
The 4G+ stations will supplement the existing 4,677 2G sites, 3,517 3G sites and 1,103 4G sites on Safaricom’s network and will complement its proactive fibre rollout strategy that has seen over 50,000 homes and 1,500 commercial buildings passed by its high speed fibre links.
Though businesses need 4G for faster speeds, misinformation among consumers has been a major setback to 4G uptake in the country. The launch of 4G+ services in major towns will need the firm to accompany it with massive user awareness for its efforts to bear any fruit. Most firms tend to use social media campaigns to target SMEs forgetting that unlike fast moving consumer goods where 50+ year-old decision makers ask their 20-30 year old kids on what to buy; SME owners tend to ask peers in their industry and don’t trust social media.
According to Bob Collymore, CEO, Safaricom, “These faster speeds not only benefit the customer, they also empower small businesses who can now use the internet for more commercial activities – democratizing data access.”
“These investments lay the foundation for a more digitally enabled, platform economy. We expect that our network will empower more small enterprise to participate in commerce as well as drive more data use by critical sectors in the education, health and agricultural sectors,” said Mr. Collymore.
Somalia, Burundi, Tunisia, Liberia, Sudan, Djibouti, Reunion, Mayotte and Congo already have 4G LTE in Africa.