Five months ago, Safaricom introduced the first 4G network in Kenya with a promise to extend coverage across the nation within three years. Today, the company has fitted about 6 percent of its over 3,000 base stations with 4G technology and continues to increase usage of data services as a growth strategy.

“Technology is changing,” said Bob Collymore, CEO of Safaricom, in a recent interview with Reuters. “It is changing rapidly and we have to respond to it. Ultimately the majority of the people will be accessing the Internet on a handheld device. The demand for data in rural areas is much higher than people would have assumed a couple of years ago.”

The company also plans to extend 3G coverage to 75 percent (up from 57 percent presently) of its network by the end of the year as many nationals are yet to acquire 4G enabled handsets. The 3G sites will be established in rural areas as well.

Safaricom is keen to grow its business by penetrating the digital TV space; to this end, it will partner with digital broadcasters to offer Internet data bundles, Wi-Fi and media content to homes equipped for digital television. This move became imminent after Kenya switched to digital TV broadcasting earlier in the year. “That is where our point of entry into that space is going to be. It is in the long-term plan. There is a lot of exciting space to go and explore,” Collymore said.

With many suggesting Safaricom is inching towards a monopolistic domination of the telecom market, fears are rising that the telco will enjoy privileged policies from the government as well as offered a soft landing in areas it falls short.  Collymore is having non of that and has refuted such assertions adding that they also share infrastructure like base stations, spectrum and mobile money agents with other operators.  “Rather than focus on trying to cut the legs off a successful Kenyan company, just focus on doing the right things in your organization,” he adviced.

By Emmanuel Iruobe

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