Safaricom and Airtel are two of the largest mobile network operators in Kenya. Both companies have launched their 5G networks in Kenya, with Safaricom being the first to do so back in October 2023 and Airtel Kenya following in July 2023.
Over the past few months, we have seen more and more cell sites across the country being equipped to support 5G with Safaricom boasting of 5G coverage in 35 of the 47 counties and Airtel Kenya managing a respectable 32 counties.
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To take advantage of 5G, you of course, need a 5G-ready device and be in a 5G covered area to get these speeds. 5G smartphones have long been present in the market and in the past couple of months, we have seen even more devices being launched that support 5G.
Mediatek, the smartphone chipmaker has also been in partnership with industry players to boost the coverage and adoption of this new connectivity standard. Today, most of the devices supporting 5G in the country are powered by some Mediatek chipset.
The smartphone adoption notwithstanding, both carriers seem to be leaning towards 5G WiFi to lower the barrier for adoption. Safaricom and Airtel have their own 5G routers that they sell to customers because you don’t need to invest a lot to get a 5G capable device to enjoy 5G in Kenya.
Simply get a 5G router from us, get our tailor-made 5G bundles to go with, and connect all your devices to the router via WiFi and get 5G speeds. This makes sense and I believe will get more people to appreciate 5G with all the benefits it has to offer.
Both routers go for around Ksh 10,000, a discount from the Ksh 25,000 Safaricom was selling theirs at launch. Worth noting is that the Airtel router comes with a power bank so you can use it when you’re out and about, not just when it is tethered to a wall outlet which is a good thing in my books.
While the normal bundles will work on your 5G smartphone in a 5G area, allowing you to browse the internet conveniently, both companies have a 5G WiFi business model where they get your home/business connected wirelessly using a router, while paying monthly fees.
Here are the prices for Safaricom’s 5G packages:
|Monthly Price (KES)
And here are the prices for Airtel’s 5G packages:
|Monthly Price (KES)
|5G Unlimited 10Mbps
|5G Unlimited 30Mbps
|5G Unlimited 50Mbps
It’s worth noting that Safaricom’s packages were announced to include Fair Use Limits. Airtel hasn’t made mention of that so far. There is a case to be made about how these Fair Usage Policy limits make sense but you be the judge of that.
This is, perhaps, where the tiebreaker lies. In all my trips across this great land, I have not come across Airtel Kenya 5G despite using Airtel Internet as my primary network for data. Airtel 4G is everywhere and it is stable but for most the places I have spent time, Safaricom 5G is present.
This is to be expected because Safaricom has had more time to roll out and strengthen its 5G network and they do have the resources to do that. Airtel might try but we know who the market leader is. To be fair though, those who have tested Airtel 5G have good things to say about it, I just haven’t been as lucky.
At launch, Safaricom said its 5G network was available across certain towns and cities. As of April 2023, the company has expanded 5G to 21 counties targeting over 400,000 smartphone users with 5G-ready phones. Airtel, on the other hand, at launch said their 5G network is available across 16 counties. The company is planning an additional 650 sites to boost its network reach this year.
Coverage is a continuously improving factor and who’s to say what areas will be covered in the next 6 months. That said, just ensure that the places of interest for you are adequately covered by whichever 5G provider you wish to go with.
As mentioned, I haven’t been as lucky to test out Airtel Kenya’s 5G but for the people who have, say they’re happy with the speeds. Some report as high as 300Mbps and for a cellular network, this is impressive.
I have used Safaricom’s 5G and I get anywhere between 100-150Mbps which feels plenty fast for me. But then again I didn’t really have issues with the 50-60Mbps I got on 4G LTE.
5G is steadily taking shape and if you were on the fence over this new tech, this might be the time to make the jump. We shall be working on a post on the best 5G devices for you going into 2024 so look out for that.
Also be on the lookout for end-of-year deals from carriers on these 5G routers as it is the fastest and cheapest way to up your internet experience should you not want to shell out thousands on a new smartphone.
So which should you get? I say get the airtel 5G router if you’re in a region that 5G is present. It is cheaper, has more flexible packages and comes with a power bank. If Airtel 5G is not available, look into Safaricom’s. If all these aren’t options, try these.