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Airtel Kenya upgrades its network to 5G, but you will not access it just yet

Airtel Kenya has announced it upgraded some of its sites to 5G, in some respect the announcement is a bit confusing since users will not be able to connect to the next generation of mobile internet just yet. The move follows a successful rollout of 5G network by Safaricom in some Kenyan towns including, Nairobi, Kisumu and Kakamega. With dwindling revenues from voice and text messages, which have for decades accounted as the most income earners for mobile operators, telco’s are now exploring mobile data services as an alternative revenue generator.

According to Airtel Kenya, moving to 5G platform will give it a head start to cater for a growing demand for mobile internet services in the country. Airtel Kenya is the second largest mobile service provider in the country after Safaricom which pioneered 5G network in Kenya. As per the operator’s data, over 600 sites in Nairobi, Mombasa and Malindi are now 5G ready.

Why you still can’t access 5G on Airtel network with a supported device

While the announcement was met with excitement, Kenyans should take this news with a pinch of salt for various reasons. To start with, the upgrade is majorly on infrastructure-wise and not consumer wise use. Meaning the infrastructure is yet, just not the 5G signal itself. Secondly, 5G capable devices are still way above what a common consumer in the country can afford.

While speaking on the news, Airtel Kenya Managing Director Prasanta said the 600 sites were 5G ready and will not be required to make anymore adjustments to rollout the network. The Director further added, all the company will have to do is switch-on the network.  

As per current statistics, Airtel Kenya accounts for nearly 26.5 percent of all mobile data users in the country. The current pandemic has forced data demand upwards, partly due to the need to access internet from home for work and to access various resources such as learning, shopping and so forth.

Once the mobile provider switches on 5G, Kenyans will access internet at three times faster internet speeds than what 4G can currently offer. As of now, 5G phones in the country are limited and costly.  Airtel aims to rollout 5G in the next 1 to 2 years when 5G capable devices are a bit cheaper according to the Managing Director.  

Safaricom adopts Ericsson’s E-band microwave transport solution for efficient spectrum use

Kenya’s largest mobile service provider – Safaricom, has chosen Ericsson to supply microwave solutions that will see the mobile service provider attain multi Gbps data capacity for mobile broadband services as well as efficient use of spectrum. Safaricom recently started its official migration from current 4G network to 5G, with initial sites setup within Nairobi, Kisumu and Kakamega towns.

Ericsson’s technology based on the MINI-LINK 6352 comes with numerous advantages, including the ability to achieve higher capacity levels, efficient use of spectrum, lower power consumption as well as simplified operations and maintenance. The solution is based on E-band platform that capitalizes on recent technology advancements which now enable microwave, radio wave platforms to achieve Gigabit per second, up from previous Megabit per second.

The partnership will see Safaricom attain impressive capacity levels in areas where fibre is not available. The Microwave solution is not only aimed at areas that are yet to be covered with fibre optic but is touted to achieve multi Gbps links and provide the much-needed capacity for Safaricom to expand data growth through Radio Access Network (RAN).

Speaking on the partnership, Safaricom’s CEO Peter Ndegwa said the company was committed to giving customers better experiences through quality networks as well as building a solid base to evolve the provider’s network. Ndegwa further said the telco would now be able to continue to inspire and innovate in meeting frequent changing requirements of its customers from the partnership.

Safaricom has been shifting its focus from traditional voice and text services in recent times to data and mobile money provision, partly due to dwindling revenues from those services. The telco is looking to offer additional services including a savings solution to boost its revenues.

In order to meet various demands, Safaricom is looking to tap into Ericsson’s solution, a move that would allow it to offer a mix of fibre and microwave solutions for its Radio Access Network sites.

Speaking on the partnership, Head and Vice President of Ericsson East and South Africa Todd Ashton said, building an efficient Microwave backhaul network with end-to-end performance required a high node capacity, compact and modular building practice as well as advanced packet functionality. Todd further said the partnership will help develop as well as deploy future-ready network with a new level of capacity, speed and quality.

Taxi hailing app – Uber and Uber Eats now available for users in Nakuru Kenya

Following successful launch in Major Kenyan towns; Mombasa and Nairobi, Uber has now officially started offering its services to residents of Nakuru town. The online taxi provider will avail both its food delivery and taxi services to the residents. The move pits it against other taxi providers in the country, who have been quick to rollout their services in various towns within the country.

Uber will officially be joining the likes of Bolt as well as other local based providers to compete for riders in the town. Other service providers such as Wasili cabs, Bolt, Bomba and Safiri will each compete for the lucrative market within the town.

Speaking on the launch, Uber head of East Africa Brian Njao said the company was optimistic regarding business opportunities in the country and the introduction of its services in Nakuru shows the commitment Uber has in the region. Njao further noted the company was keen to assisting people during the pandemic period to make essential trips safely while at the same time giving Kenyans more economic opportunities.

And while Uber is generally preferred by Kenyans in the towns they are operational, Estonian based taxi hailing company – Bolt enjoys a generally wider presence in the country, with operations in Kisumu and Kakamega adding to major towns like Nairobi, Nakuru and Mombasa.

And as is the case here in Nairobi, Uber has partnered with restaurants in the area, such as KFC, Java house, jamia food mart, Majid restaurant and Lennz Pizza to deliver food to residents through Uber Eats service.

Kenya is currently undergoing a lock down as well as other directives that restrict normal operations of restaurants and bars to curb the spread of the corona virus and the introduction of its services in the area will come as a major relief to many businesses.

Bolt has also recently introduced food delivery service in the country – staring with Nairobi, putting pressure on Uber Eats, Glovo and Jumia Food, who have been in the industry for a while.  The introduction of Uber Eats in Nakuru adds Uber’s presence in the country, following recent expansion in Mombasa, Ongata Rongai, Syokimau and Kitengela.

Xiaomi Mi Smart band 6 unveiled with rounded corners and Sp02 tracking capabilities

Xiaomi’s smart band series have always been my go-to, when I’m looking for a fitness tracking device. They’ve always had the best battery life in my opinion and are offered at an interestingly low price. Ever since the Mi band 3 was unveiled, I’ve had each of the Mi band series and 6 looks like yet something I’ll just have to keep me going. While launching a sleuth of other devices such as a projector, Xiaomi unveiled the next iteration of its Mi series – the Mi Smart band 6.

It’s the biggest upgrade we’ve seen thus far, ever since the Mi band 3 was unveiled featuring the first ever color screen. With Mi band 6, Xiaomi included an Sp02 tracking, enabling the smart band to effectively track your blood oxygen level including checking on your breathing quality – REM tracking during sleep. Sensors included on older bands such as a heart rate monitor are also onboard.

There’s so much that has gone into the Mi band 6, that we feel it deserves the “biggest upgrade” label in comparison with older models. For once, Xiaomi has borrowed inspiration from current smartphones to bring rounded corners on the smart band. The design aesthetics are so good that we are intrigued with the 1.56-inch display panel which appears pill-shaped creating some good confusion on just how to correctly measure the panel. But in a nutshell, the 1.56-inch panel is 50 percent larger than the Mi band 5 and offers an ample screen resolution of 152 x 486 pixels, translating to a decent 326ppi. The display panel comes with a tempered screen to resist those scratches as well as an oleophobic coating to keep smudges and fingerprints away.

Something that has always fascinated me on the Mi bands series is their ability to go for several days, if not weeks without requiring charging. Unfortunately for some reason we still get the same125 mAh battery capacity as the predecessor, which keeps the battery life at par with its predecessor at 14 days. The magnetic charging strap is the same as one used on the band 5, which is not necessarily a bad thing, especially after moving away from the one used on band 4 that required removing straps to charge the fitness tracker.

Other additions on the latest Mi band, include a female health tracking feature as well as stress monitoring. There are 30 fitness modes at your disposal which is a welcomed upgrade from half of those we saw on the previous model. The band will be available in Black, Yellow, Olive, Ivory and Blue.

Availability and price in Kenya

On launch, the band was priced at USD 35 which is about Ksh. 3,800, but we expect to stay within the Ksh 4,000 – 5,000 range after taxes. At the moment you can purchase online from stores like AliExpress for about Ksh. 5,000, though official availability in the country is imminent if history is anything to go by.

Huawei mobile Kenya unveils a number of discounts on products and accessories this Easter

Huawei Mobile Kenya has unveiled a number of discounts on its products in the country during the easter holiday. Customers are slated to receive up to 50 percent off on a number of products within the 5-day period. The offer will also extend to Huawei services and will be accessible from various Huawei Mobile flagship experience stores across the country.

Huawei has faced pressure from current tag of ward between the US and China, which has led to a number of Huawei products and services being restricted in certain countries as well as lacking necessary chip supply to manufacture various products. The Kenyan government has however dismissed the allegations by the US and allowed one of the countries top mobile service provider to engage Huawei as well as Nokia in launching the country’s first 5G network.

To access Easter offers on products and services, customers will have to visit one of these experience stores; Sarit Center, Yaya Center, Village Market and Thika Road Mall. The offers are available during the 5-day window, where consumers will be eligible to receive 10 percent discount on all accessories that include Smartwatches, FreeBuds, Smart bands, free lace as well as on power banks.

On some items such as the most recent FreeBuds 3i will have a 30 percent discount as long as it’s purchased alongside any other product from the company. The company is also going all out on some accessories such as screen protectors, which will have a 50 percent discount, interestingly, the offer will apply on any Huawei products as well as on other brands. Screen replacements on the Y-Series will also get a 50 percent price cut at the Thika Road Mall including the Huawei P30 Lite

Speaking on the campaign, Huawei Mobile Kenya Country head Jim Zhujie acknowledged the third wave of the corona pandemic had led to closure of some vital exercise related centers such as the Gyms and sports. Zhujie noted that this has led to more customers deciding to work out at home leading to an increased demand for virtual personal training. As a result, the country head noted the importance of the current offers that will give consumers an opportunity to own a new smartwatch as well as other fitness tracking devices at reduced prices.

CAK has fined Homeboyz radio Ksh. 1 million and suspended lift-off morning show for six months

The communications Authority of Kenya has finally weighed-in on derogatory comments made by some Homeboyz radio presenters during their lift off morning show. The move comes just a few hours after the parent company – Radio Africa group terminated contracts of the three presenters in the middle of the current fiasco. The three presenters, Joseph Munoru, Shaffie Weru and Neville Muasya, have since been fired by the Radio Africa-owned station, after being accused of shaming a victim of sexual violence during the Lift Off morning show.

While addressing the media early on Sunday, Communications Authority acting director general Mercy Wanjau instructed all presenters from the station to undergo mandatory training on programming code by the authority. Additionally, presenters will also have to undergo training by the National Gender and Equality commission.

As a punishment for the presenter’s behavior, Homeboyz radio will part with a Ksh. 1 million fine and the Lift Off morning show put on hold for the next six months until the station proves compliance to the authority with statutory requirements. Additionally, the station is expected to air an apology on two newspapers with a nationwide circulation.

The developments follow withdrawal of advertisements by the East African Breweries Limited following comments that were seen as biased and discriminatory against women. The stories revolve around a young woman who met someone on Facebook and proceeded to have a lunch date that later proceeded to the boyfriend’s office on the 12th floor of Ambank house for drinks.

According to court documents, while the lady wanted to leave around 7:30pm, the boyfriend wanted her to spend the night. This led to a fight that resulted in the lady being thrown through the window on the 12th floor and falling on the 9th floor. She incurred several injuries and can’t walk without assistance after spending a few months in the hospital.

Safaricom rolls out 5G network in Kenya, here is how to access with supported devices

Months after Safaricom suspended plans to unveil 5G network in Kenya indefinitely, the telco has finally announced its availability in the country, though only in certain areas. Subscribers with supported devices can now access faster internet speeds on the next generation of mobile network. And as expected, the telco will be expanding 5G coverage to more areas within the country, prioritizing urban centers with heavy demand for faster download and upload speeds.

Mobile penetration in the country is definitely one of the highest in the whole continental Africa, partly due to the popularity of MPESA as well as a relatively informed youthful population. The largest mobile service provider intents to upgrade networks from current 4G to 5G in more than 150 sites across the country in the next 12 months. Within these regions, Safaricom plans to asses demand for faster internet speeds with an initial target of up to 700 megabits per second before stretching it further to 1,000 Mbps.

Initial 5G coverage

As part of the initial rollout plan, the company has enabled 5G service in parts of Nairobi, Kisumu, Kisii as well as Kakamega. These areas will further increase to more than 150 locations within the next 12 months. Safaricom has been steadfast in adapting newer technologies compared to competitors who are currently only trying to catch up in the 4G atmosphere.

Speaking on the rollout, Safaricom’s Chief Executive Officer Peter Ndegwa said the development marked a major milestone in the country. Ndegwa further said that 5G network would empower subscribers with faster internet speeds at their work places, home as well as while on the move, complementing its fibre network. The CEO also noted that Safaricom was proud to be the first to bring such innovations in the country, that would empower enterprise as well as retail customers.

What you need to access 5G network in the country

As is with newer technologies, customers will need to have supported devices to enjoy faster connection speeds. In Kenya, there are a few devices that support 5G, such as Huawei Mate 30 Pro and P40, Nokia 8.3, Samsung Galaxy S21 series, Samsung Galaxy Z Fold2 and Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G. However, the telco says enterprise and home customers will be given 5G routers.

Cabinet Secretary in the ministry of Information and Technology Joe Mucheru congratulated Safaricom on its milestone for being at the forefront of innovation in the region. Mucheru further said that 5G would usher in increased internet speeds and capabilities for millions across the country, laying a strong foundation for a new generation of innovators and entrepreneurs.

Unlike 4G networks which are said to support up to 100,000 connected devices per square kilometer, 5G can hold up to 1 million devices within the same range. It therefore offers a reasonable alternative to densely populated areas. To efficiently rollout the next generation of mobile network, Safaricom settled on Nokia and Huawei to implement the technology across the country.

Safaricom’s customers to continue streaming football matches from 141 websites

A few months back, we reported on a looming court battle between Safaricom, JTL and Pay TV provider Dstv with regard to alleged 141 websites that host pirated football streams. The development came as a surprise to the freedom of the internet and what precedence the ruling could’ve had on internet service providers in the country. In our earlier editorial, a Kenyan court had directed Safaricom and JTL – some of the top internet service providers in the country to block websites that were allegedly hosting pirated football streaming channels. Safaricom didn’t like the ruling and appealed at the high court fearing repercussions from customers if such directives were to be honored.

A high court has finally come to Safaricom’s rescue, suspending earlier ruling on the matter, effectively allowing Safaricom’s internet subscribers to continue accessing these websites. Multichoice had alleged the 141 websites were pirating its content, and moved to court suing Safaricom and JTL for enabling access to its premium sporting content illegally. Dstv and Gotv are both owned by Multichoice which had won on the first round, only for Safaricom to later contest the ruling fearing implications from its customers.

After the latest directives, customers who connect to the internet through Safaricom will continue to have access to the said 141 websites. Premium channels on the Dstv and Gotv platform such as SuperSport are known to broadcast premium sporting content on major leagues such as the English Premier league. And while customers who have subscribed to Dstv and Gotv can access SuperSport at a monthly fee, there are websites hosting streams from such channels that can be viewed free of charge.

A Kenyan high court had earlier agreed with Multichoice that its content was being infringed and ordered Safaricom and JTL to block access to these websites. These directives have now been suspended by a court of appeal, which Safaricom had argued that it would have suffered irreparable damages. Kenya’s largest mobile service provider pointed out civil and criminal law suits as well as a tainted reputation should it go a head and attempt to control the behavior of its subscribers.