Kenya’s Safaricom PLC has relaxed its plan to launch the first fifth-generation (5G) mobile internet services to focus on improving its 4G network.
Safaricom CEO Peter Ndegwa said the company will not launch the 5G network any soon after it converted millions of 2G and 3G users to 4G.
The company has finished the trial for the 5G superfast internet service as part of its ambition to cover all the major urban centres.
Safaricom chose to slow its 5G plans due to pressure from the US for its allies who have raised security concerns over the Chinese firm Huawei that is ready to roll out 5G network across the world.
The telco was aiming to rake in big from data business and M-Pesa after witnessing a continuous drop in revenues from voice calls and SMS services.
“We have tested it (5G) in this country. We will go through conversations around spectrum with government in the background. But in terms of immediacy, we are not intending at this stage to go big on 5G in the near term,” Ndegwa said.
But 5G service still remains a key component of the company’s efforts to expand its data business to counter slowed growth by focussing on increased mobile internet use in Kenya.
Safaricom that as been over the time accused of bullying other telcos is desperate to increase sales from its data division has not disclose the amount needed to roll out the 5G internet.
The firm is putting ice on its major plan on superfast internet services when its parent company, Vodacom is also looking for loans to finance their entry into Ethiopia.
Vodacom will borrow up to $500 million (Sh55 billion) from America the US International Development Finance Corporation to bankroll their expansion into Ethiopia.
The 4G network that was launched five years ago has helped Safaricom grow its revenues from data to Sh40.7 billion, down from Sh9.3 billion in 2014.
Data from Safaricom shows that 77 % of Kenya’s population is already covered by the 5G network and yearning for 5G.
Covid-19 pandemic which forced people to work from home also advantaged the firm due to increased use of data.
Safaricom was embroiled in the tensions between the US and China over Huawei’s contract for the 5G rollout after its parent company (Vodacom) went for American loans to finance their planned entry into Ethiopia.
But US authorities argue that global security and personal data will be at risk if Huawei dominates development of the world’s 5G internet.
The Chinese company has challenged US to produce more evidence to back the security risks they are purporting.
The move come after the UK also announced in June that it was reversing the decision to let Huawei participate in its 5G network after the pressure from America.