Imagine a state-of-the-art home where the water and sewerage systems are fitted with advanced meters to warn in case of leakages.
Or several devices and equipment in health, agriculture and manufacturing were connected to the internet, with ability to send real time updates and data.
This reality will soon become commonplace in the country, following the launch of the 5G trial in major urban centres including Nairobi, Kisumu, Kisii and Kakamega. Data traffic routinely spikes in these counties.
With the arrival of 5G in Kenya, user experience is expected to be transformed. It has the potential to provide super-fast data speeds of up to 700 Megabits per second (mbps), projected to progressively grow to 1,000 mbps. This, coupled with the less time it takes to load data, known as latency, is guaranteed to deliver an experience on the internet that is as close to reality as possible.
The network also comes with significantly enhanced capacity. It allows up to one million connected devices per square kilometre, compared to 4G, which can only support 100,000 connected devices in a similar area. This feature makes it possible to connect many devices.
Safaricom CEO Peter Ndegwa said arrival of the new, faster and more reliable network paves way for deployment of more complex technologies that will change things in unimaginable ways and heralds the era of a truly intelligent world.
“This network is designed to connect everyone and everything, including machines, objects and devices in order to cater for existing and future connectivity needs,” he explained at the official launch of the network.
The rollout of 5G, in partnership with Huawei and Nokia, is currently under pilot and will be available to more than 150 areas across nine towns, over the next 12 months. The primary objective during the trial period will be to establish if customers can enjoy the target speeds of up to 700 mbps.
5G, a first in the Eastern Africa region, is expected to be commercially rolled out following successful testing of the network.
When it eventually happens, subscribers will enjoy new applications in areas such as virtual reality, augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, and artificial intelligence. For instance, during the launch of the network in Nairobi, Safaricom staff using 5G teleported from Kisumu using a hologram.
On 5G, fashion lovers can also shop virtually, trying and fitting clothes remotely. Before buying furniture, shoppers can also virtually place them in their houses. For gaming enthusiasts, the experience is richer on 5G virtual reality; whereas on augmented reality, it is possible to virtually visits zoos. Live performances can get extremely high-quality on 5G; while different 3D perspectives of a live match.
The medical field will also benefit greatly from telemedicine and remote surgeries aided by the advanced network. This has already been successfully done in China, where doctors conducted brain surgery on a patient about 1,500 miles way, aided by medical robots running on 5G.
For business, in general, the fast speeds will make it possible to personalise customers’ experience based on real-time insights gathered from big data. This will also help in predicting what a customer will need in subsequent visits. Call centres can also provide video support, enabling them to attend to customers’ complex issues remotely.
As the rollout paves way for the advanced technologies to become available, Kenyans are expected to be part of the 3% of total mobile connections in sub-Saharan Africa that will be on 5G.