Safaricom launches 3G technology

Safaricom, Kenya's leading mobile-phone company, launched its 3G mobile network, setting the stage for another level of competition from local rival Celtel.

Safaricom and Celtel are involved in fierce competition for subscribers, and both companies are outdoing each other in pricing and technological advancement. Safaricom has 7 million subscribers and Celtel has 4.5 million.

Safaricom subscribers will now have access to high-speed mobile data up to 7.2M bps (bits per second). The 3G technology will be available in and around Nairobi and will be rolled out throughout the country within one year. The new 3G services are initially aimed at companies.

"This commercial launch confirms our dedication to ensuring that our subscribers continue to enjoy world-class innovation," said Safaricom CEO Michael Joseph.

The 3G technology will enable the company to offer subscribers within Nairobi and surrounding areas a wider range of advanced data and voice services with greater network capacity through improved spectrum efficiency, Joseph said.

Safaricom launched its trial of 3G in October 2006, and in October 2007 was awarded the license to launch commercially. Trials on the 3G network were tested in large-scale environments at events such as the East & Central GSM Conference in May 2007, the International Association of Athletic Federation World Cross Country Championship in March 2007 and the 16th edition of the Kenya Open PGA Tour at the Karen Golf and Country Club in March 2008.

Safaricom is diversifying beyond its traditional mobile voice service to offer integrated voice and data, enabling computer-to-computer communication for businesses and consumers.

The service will assist the growing ICT industry, given the shortage of fixed lines and constricted bandwidth.

Subscribers must use 3G-enabled handsets for the advanced services, including Internet connectivity and access to e-mail, calendars and multimedia

PC users will access the service using either a broadband modem plugged into a computer to access the Internet for a single user, or a broadband wireless router that allows a group of users high-speed access.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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