Open door for Safaricom to roll out 4G network

By Standard reporter

Safaricom should be issued with the frequencies it requires to roll out the 4G (fourth generation) technology to meet its customers’ growing demand for fast connections and to boost its network quality. Whatever the justification, holding back the leading mobile telephone operator, which has already put the country on the world technological map with its introduction of M-Pesa money transfer platform, is certainly not in the national economic interest.

 Whereas it is true that it would be cheaper if all the mobile telephone operators pool their resources and roll out a single national 4G network, it should be appreciated that they are not all at the same level of development. Neither are they equally financially endowed. Indeed there is reason to believe that their development strategies are different. That means even those operators with money to invest may prefer to do so in other markets.

The fact that Safaricom has already tested the 4G network technology while some of its local competitors are yet to decide whether to migrate from 2G to 3G or not demonstrates just how far apart their vision of the market is today, and in the near future.

It should not be lost on any persons or parties arguing for a delay to the Safaricom application needs to consider that African telecom giants — MTN and Vodacom — are already running 4G network technology trials in South Africa. The only way Kenya can stay ahead of the competition on the continent is to issue Safaricom the frequencies it needs to get the job done.

Fortunately, the government does not have to spend any public money on this front, as it did its part in co-financing The East African Marine System (TEAMS) with the country’s major telecommunications companies led by Safaricom, with a 20 per cent equity.

A major drawback of the proposed joint ownership of 4G network is that it would slow down the decision-making process. The expected release of frequencies following the planned migration of TV and radio broadcasting from analogue to digital means the government agency charged with the responsibility of issuing frequencies will have no excuses for any further delays.