Safaricom picks Ericsson for network upgrade

Ericsson signed a multi-year agreement with Safaricom to upgrade the Kenya-based operator's mobile broadband network through the addition of Wi-Fi access points and the improvement of the microwave backhaul network.

Under the terms of the agreement, the Sweden-based network equipment manufacturer said it will deploy Wi-Fi technology for the first time on the Safaricom network as well as expand and enhance the MINI-LINK microwave transmission network. In addition, the vendor will provide a platform for both fixed and mobile services for IP/MPLS routing.

Ericsson noted that the Wi-Fi solution will enable Safaricom to optimise its use of spectrum resources while enhancing its 3G services, and boost the quality of broadband coverage for customers in selected densely populated areas.

Thibaud Rerolle, director of technology at Safaricom, said: "As we move into an era where the customer experience is re-defining our networks, this development will place us in an optimal position to continue to grow our data footprint, especially in heavily populated areas such as the CBD [central business district], in the most cost-efficient manner."

Safaricom, which is 40 per cent owned by Vodafone, has already set out ambitious network expansion plans under a five-year strategy. The company last week said it plans to roll out its 4G network in 13 more towns and cities by the end of this year and expand the 3G network to cover 80 per cent of the population from 69 per cent at present.

Other announcements included a new home broadband service that will deliver TV and data services via the company's 3G and 4G networks and use Wi-Fi devices to distribute them within the home. The service consists of a set-top box with digital free-to-air TV channels, and will be expanded to offer a wider range of relevant content and video-on-demand services in the coming year.

Safaricom is now placing a strong focus on non-voice services such as mobile data and the M-Pesa mobile money services.

In the company's fiscal year to Mar. 31, 2015, non-voice service revenue increased by 27 per cent to KES68.8 billion (€643 million/$717 million). Voice service revenue, which now stands at 54 per cent of total revenue, increased by just 4 per cent in comparison.

For more:
- see this Ericsson release

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