5G in Kenya!

No Harm, No Foul? Safaricom Embraces Huawei & Nokia In One 5G Deal

By  |  March 29, 2021

5G is launching in Kenya, thanks to Safaricom—the most valuable company in East Africa.

But there were more partners in this deal than anticipated.

The fifth-generation connection was undergoing testing in the past few months and has now been officially rolled out in the telco’s headquarters in Nairobi and Kisumu.

Kenya’s 5G was initially based on a partnership between Safaricom and Huawei—the Shenzhen-headquartered phone and telecom equipment maker. But, the new connectivity development in the country involves Huawei’s strongest rival: Nokia.

According to Safaricom, both Huawei and (Finnish) Nokia were responsible for the infrastructure on which the network is based. The move appears to be a slight derailing from Safaricom’s bullishness to stick with Huawei irrespective of the Chinese firm’s global challenges.

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Just a few months ago, Safaricom said it was suspending operations to roll out 5G in Kenya. At the time, the operator said it wanted to focus more on bringing 3G users to the 4G zone.

However, locals felt their most sought-after telco had finally reconsidered its partnership with Huawei because of how Chinese tech companies are viewed worldwide.

Testing 5G so relatively soon after receding on the network’s building plans is definitely a plus for Kenya, a more connected city than places like Nigeria, Senegal, Ethiopia, Zambia, etc.

Still, the hiccups this launch has encountered might be reflective of internal back and forths to make sure the Kenyan internet remains safe to use.

Patronizing two telecom equipment rivals from two different continents for a country with a fast-growing internet market looks like the right mix. Even in the smartphone markets, Nokia and Huawei are two strong rivals. The phones these companies produce today are, of course, 5G-supported.

The Safaricom deal isn’t Nokia’s first 5G partnership in the continent. The firm collaborated with Vodacom South Africa to launch the fifth-generation network in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban, and Cape Town. In fact, the transaction was an extension of already existing business relations.

For Huawei, a botched job with Safaricom could have been the nail on the coffin. Severing ties with the most valuable telco—and company—in East Africa may have sent out the wrong signals. Remaining in the Kenyan 5G testing mix is healthy for the company’s reputation in Sub-Saharan Africa.

After all, its ambitions in neighboring Ethiopia don’t seem to add up just yet.

Needfully recalling, Huawei has found a safe business haven in North Africa, where it has inked deals with leading telcos in countries like Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, and some parts of Algeria.

Finally, the company lands the first deal in Sub-Saharan Africa since South Africa—in 2018 when they partnered with Rain 5G.

For a fact, Safaricom is the first telco in Africa to work with both Huawei and Nokia in a single 5G deal. In other non-African countries where they both have market shares, it’s mostly partnering with rivaling telcos, individually.

As the 5G is however yet to officially launch in Kenya, may be a window for more information.

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