Safaricom Starts First Kenya 4G Service Set for National Rollout

Safaricom Ltd. today introduced the first fourth-generation network in Kenya’s biggest cities and said it plans to extend coverage across the nation within three years.

Huawei Technologies Co. built the Long-Term Evolution, or LTE, network now operating in parts of the capital, Nairobi, and port city of Mombasa, Safaricom Chief Executive Officer Bob Collymore told reporters today. The Nairobi-based telecommunications operator paid 14 billion shillings ($155 million) to acquire the spectrum, Collymore said.

Wireless carriers across Africa have been spending on Internet-enabled services as customers increasingly turn to smartphones and tablet computers for communication and mobile banking. Safaricom competes with Telkom Kenya Ltd., a joint venture between the government and Orange SA and Bharti Airtel’s Kenyan unit.

Safaricom’s 4G network offers faster Internet services and enables downloads at a speed of 100 megabytes per second, twice as quick as 3G networks, Technology Director Thibaud Rerolle said today at the briefing. The upload speeds are five times as fast at 25 megabytes per second, Rerolle said.

Safaricom plans by February to start selling 4G-enabled smartphones for less than 9,000 shillings, said Collymore.