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Safaricom launches East Africa's first 5G network, Huawei a vendor

FILE PHOTO: A mobile phone care centre operated by Safaricom in the central business district of Kenya's capital Nairobi, May 11, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenya’s biggest telecoms operator Safaricom has started trials for 5G high-speed internet network using technology from Nokia and Huawei, it said.

Safaricom, part owned by South Africa’s Vodacom and Britain’s Vodafone, wants to boost its fast-growing data business, amid increasing demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic forcing people to work and learn from home.

The trials, which started with four Kenyan cities and towns on Friday, will be expanded to 150 sites in nine urban areas in the next 12 months, Safaricom said in a statement.

Safaricom said last year it would consider Huawei for its 5G network rollout. The United States has urged countries not to include Huawei in their 5G plans, citing security concerns, which Huawei has denied.

Safaricom is the market leader in the mobile data segment in Kenya, with 67.5% of total users as of last September, statistics from the regulator Communications Authority of Kenya showed.

The company has a 35.6% share of the small but growing internet to home and office by fibre market, CAK said.

The new 5G network will give consumers internet speeds of 700 megabits per second, more than three times faster than the current 4G network, the company said.

It will also allow Safaricom to offer an alternative service for homes and offices in areas which are not currently covered by the its fibre network, the company said.

The technology will also support far many more devices to connect to the internet in a given area, compared with the existing network.

Reporting by Duncan Miriri; editing by Jane Merriman

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