Safaricom claims sub-Saharan Africa first with launch of LTE Advanced in Kenya

Safaricom said it has become the first operator in sub-Saharan Africa to launch LTE Advanced (LTE-A) services, with Nairobi and Mombasa in Kenya the first cities to get the high-speed mobile data services ahead of a wider rollout in the coming months.

The operator, which is 40 per cent-owned by Vodafone and the largest telecoms service provider in Kenya, said the LTE-A network will offer peak speeds of up to 100 Mbps thanks to the use of carrier aggregation technology.

"Today's launch progresses our strategic push to democratise data. We believe in the transformative power of the internet and are keen to deliver the most advanced technologies to our subscribers in order to remain the network of choice," said Bob Collymore, CEO of Safaricom.

Collymore added that the operator will make use of its relationships with global phone manufacturers to offer "affordable" 4G devices including phones, routers, and modems. It plans to launch a sub-KES9,000 (€80/$100) 4G phone early next year to complement existing devices including the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus and Huawei P7 smartphones. The devices will also come with a free 4 GB data bundle.

Safaricom in November won regulatory approval to complete its $80 million (€65 million) acquisition of various assets of Essar Telecommunications Kenya. The overall transaction--worth $120 million--will also see Airtel Kenya take over the operator's subscribers.

That decision will no doubt further strengthen Orange's resolve to exit Kenya: the operator has been considering various solutions for its operations in this market because of the dominant position held by Safaricom. However, it was recently reported that Vietnamese telecoms group Viettel has pulled out of talks to acquire a 70 per cent stake in Telkom Kenya from Orange, meaning that the France-based operator would need to find an alternative plan.

For more:
- see this Safaricom release

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