Kenya’s 5G network is led by Safaricom. However, the Communications Authority of Kenya, has not been forthcoming about 5G license fees, but there is a reason for that.

While Western countries are leading in the adoption of 5G coverage, several African countries have been catching up with the 4G successor. Kenya, Mauritius, Madagascar, Nigeria, Seychelles, South Africa, and many others are among these African countries. In Kenya, for instance, the rollout is spearheaded by Safaricom, which launched in October 2022. However, several questions have been asked about 5G, such as its benefits to the ordinary person and how much the telco paid for a 5G licence from the country’s regulator, the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA).

In a media workshop held by the regulator last week, TechCabal sought to understand why the 5G license cost hasn’t been revealed. For context, operators paid KES 2.5 billion ($18 million) for the 4G license, which was acquired first by Safaricom back in 2014. Telkom Kenya acquired it in 2017 and later by Airtel Kenya and Faiba in 2018 and 2019, respectively.

According to CA, there are plans to announce the cost of the 5G spectrum license, but that will be done when more Kenyans would be able use the technology gainfully. For now, issues such as access to 5G devices, and their high cost, are barring Kenyans from testing the service. Availability is also limited to select towns and cities in the country.

Unlike other spectrums with dedicated bands, the 5G spectrum is sourced from other bands, allowing for higher penetration and compression rates. It offers increased bandwidth capacity, enabling the transmission of large amounts of data quickly and efficiently. However, implementing 5G is challenging as it requires specific access gadgets and transmitters designed for 5G technology.

“Other spectrums have a dedicated band. However, the 5G spectrum is sourced from other bands or concentrated bands, allowing for intensive utilization and higher penetration or compression rates,” said Derrick Simiyu, telecom compliance manager at CA, in a statement to TechCabal. “It aims to provide high bandwidth capacity, enabling the transmission of large amounts of data quickly and with clarity. Previously, heavy files that took too much time to transmit on other technologies can now be delivered without limits on 5G due to its heavy compression levels.” 

Different countries propose various bands for 5G deployment, but the frequency application distinguishes it as the fifth generation. The regulator adds that while initially expensive, as more users adopt 5G, economies of scale are expected to reduce pricing. Currently, 5G pricing in Kenya is based on deployment and charged per link. If the operator chooses to install 5G services in a given area, it will pay the fees for that specific area. However, standardised licenses will be introduced in the future, allowing operators to access 5G at a set fee. CA says it will let Safaricom run the service for a while and plans to announce the license fee in about two years.

“5G pricing, for now, is link by link. The amount of deployment is what is charged. At the moment, we have come up with a trial period. In the future, say after Safaricom runs 5G for two years, we will now come up with a standard license, and every other operator will access it at that fee,” Simiyu concluded.

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Kenn Abuya Senior Reporter

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