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Enhance 4G rollout before upgrading to 5G

Saturday June 15 2019

5G network

The 5G network is tipped to be a game changer. ILLUSTRATION | COURTESY 

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There has been an online fuss about the super capabilities of the 5G network, with technology experts across various platforms agreeing that it has a similar disruptive potential as Blockchain.

I don’t object to their explanation that it will ease the connection of billions of devices, live streaming of heavy video content, Internet of Things (IoT), augmented Artificial Intelligence (AI) and human-machine interaction; but I'm concerned about Kenya’s capacity to adopt it.

Despite Safaricom’s efforts to test the feasibility of laying out 5G network infrastructure, our fastest network connection remains 4G, which has only been deployed in a few urban areas.

5G promises us the fastest internet speeds to be witnessed on the planet, where a two-hour movie will be downloaded in just 3.6 seconds compared to the six minutes on our current 4G and 26 hours on 3G.

This promise is so mind boggling that our telcos will be tempted to rush to convince the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) to lay out 5G network spectrum and infrastructure.



Although eventually 5G will take off in Kenya and create a revolution in online gaming, customer analytics, cloud computing, robotics and social trust economics in real time, we should first ensure that the 4G network reaches a wider audience.

Most parts of Kenya are relying on 3G data speeds, with the remotest parts that have no access roads still struggling to browse the internet due to the low 2G speeds.

Technology should be evenly experienced, and although the penetration of the internet depends on the penetration of electricity, population density and accessibility via roads, there’s need for more upgrade of 3G to 4G.

I acknowledge that any revolutionary technology needs supportive infrastructure, a favourable ecosystem and the right policies to succeed, which CA will ultimately be required to provide; but a hasty implementation creates a bigger gap in technological advancement in the society.

I’m optimistic that laying base stations for this network will actualise agriculture-as-a-service (AaaS), an effort that will see food security levels getting boosted, but this should not only happen in particular areas in the country.


5G will make mobile videos instantaneous, with video calls getting very clear and stable; and due to its lower latency and higher capacity, healthcare will come with remote monitoring for more patients. However, this should spread to all counties.

This technology is tipped to be a game changer, especially for the Kenya Bureau of Standards, in detecting fake goods.

The Central Bank of Kenya can also use it to detect fake currency in circulation, but this detection should be planned to happen anywhere in Kenya, not just in Nairobi.

We should also see government and private sector partnerships to make IoT sensors and cameras cheap and available for scalability and compatibility purposes, just like in South Africa, the only African country using the technology.

The benefits of superfast speeds in revolutionising most sectors in terms of cost reduction, better quality goods and saving time cannot go unmentioned, but let us not rush only to regret we created lopsided development ourselves.

The writer is the online editor, Taifa Leo; [email protected]