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State eyes 5G mobile policy by September

By Frankline Sunday | February 16th 2021

The State will unveil its strategy for deploying 5G networks by September, in a move that will usher the country’s technology sector into a new era.

Industry regulator Communication Authority of Kenya (CA) said the legal groundwork to guide the commercial roll-out of 5G was at advanced stages, with Kenya set to be among the first countries in East Africa to adopt the technology.       

“We are on the path to 5G together with the rest of the world, and are keenly watching the developments in the global market,” said CA Director General Mercy Wanjau. “There are countries in Africa like Nigeria, South Africa and recently Zambia that are further along with deployment and we are learning from how they are doing it.”

The adoption of 5G is still low, with nations such as the US, Germany, South Korea and China being at advanced stages of commercial deployment.

Spectrum guidelines

A recent report by the mobile operators lobby GSMA says there will be commercial 5G in at least seven markets in Africa including Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa on 28 million connections.

“This view is supported by the GSMA 5G Market Readiness Index and the GSMA Intelligence 5G in Sub-Saharan Africa Survey, with indications that some countries, such as South Africa and Kenya, are moving quickly towards a state of readiness,” noted GSMA.

CA says the release of the spectrum guidelines last year is part of the plan to ensure the sector is adequately prepared to adopt the transformative technology.    

“The new spectrum guidelines are now undergoing stakeholder consultations to ensure we accommodate the views of the industry and the public,” explained Wanjau. “The spectrum policy is what will determine issues like the pricing and auctioning of the spectrum, which is a limited resource.”

Tier one service providers like Safaricom and Airtel typically pay upwards of Sh2 billion for a 10-year lease of the spectrum. This has previously been a cause of bitter boardroom wrangles.

In 2019, an amendment to the Kenya Information and Communications Act 1998 allowed local service providers to pay spectrum fees above Sh1 billion in instalments.

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