Airtel Kenya has confirmed the belated launch of its 3G network, Business Daily Africa reports, almost two years after being awarded an UMTS concession by the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK). The network, which is initially available in Nairobi, Mombasa, Nakuru, Kisumu, Eldoret and Naivasha, offers subscribers maximum download speeds of 21Mbps. Shivan Bhargava, chief operating officer at Airtel Kenya, commented: ‘The 3.75G platform we have launched allows customers to combine the enormous potential of the internet with the convenience of cellular phones and other mobile devices’. Elsewhere, Bhargava told The Star that the cellco intends to roll out its 3G network to 85% of the population within the next nine months.
According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, Airtel was awarded a 3G licence by the CCK in June 2010, for a fee of USD10 million; the regulator cut the price from USD25 million earlier that month in order to encourage operator take-up. In January 2011 Airtel announced that it intended to launch the long-awaited 3G network in March, after the completion of its KES25 billion (USD297 million) rollout, although the date passed without any activity.
Safaricom, Kenya’s largest mobile operator by subscribers, inaugurated the country’s first 3G network in May 2008, and currently counts in excess of five million 3G subscriber accounts. More worryingly for Airtel, smaller rival Telkom Kenya – which secured a 3G licence a full five months after Airtel – went on to launch its 3G network in August 2011, albeit on a limited basis, meaning that Airtel is already playing catch-up in the wireless broadband sector.