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5G Network in Kenya

5G is an upgrade of the current 4 G network.

In essence , it is the 5th Generation wireless technology for digital cellular networks that began wide deployment in 2019. The service area covered by providers is divided into small geographical areas called cells.

It is  expected to support faster and higher volume data transmission, downloads and uploads.It will be available on a wider geographical coverage and will enable devices access online services in real time.

5G is currently 20 times faster than 4G but in future it could be 100 times faster.

With time, 5G is expected to advance wireless networking by bringing fiber-like speeds and extremely low latency capabilities to almost any location. It has a minimum peak download speed of 20 gigabytes per second.

At this speed, it is estimated you could download a two-hour film in just 3.6 seconds on 5G, versus the six minutes on 4G or 26 hours on 3G.It will be faster for fixed users, such as homes, sites and offices than mobile users.

5G uses a new radio spectrum that will allow the connection of billions of devices, live streaming of heavy video content, Internet of Things (IoT), augmented Artificial Intelligence (AI), human-machine interaction, online gaming, customer analytics, cloud computing, robotics and social trust economics, all in real time.

One can manage their property and get quality services from a cloud based central point – your phone, drones, cameras, car, television, laptop, bank, health, education, real estate and other businesses.

It is on the same network that agriculture-as-a-service (AaaS) will be actualised, an effort that will see food security levels boosted.

It will make mobile videos instantaneous, with video calls getting very clear and stable across long distances. Due to its lower latency and higher capacity, healthcare will come with remote monitoring for more patients.

Healthcare providers will then be confident that they will receive the data they need in real time and provide the care their patients need and expect.

Last year , a hospital in China successfully performed the first remote operation using 5G technology, where a doctor implanted a deep brain stimulation (DBS) device in a patient’s brain to help control Parkinson’s disease symptoms.

The Kenyan government needs to lay out network spectrum and infrastructure in readiness for take-off.

It is notable that any revolutionary technology needs supportive infrastructure, a favourable ecosystem and the right policies to succeed.

Currently, only Safaricom is testing 5G’s feasibility in Kenya. Through its TubeStar Base Station, the telco is expected to launch the network early this year in urban centres. Telkom and Airtel are still laying out infrastructure for 4G.

Full 5G access will require close collaboration with the Communications Authority of Kenya and the three telcos.

Trainings and workshops on its use will be required. For instance, Nokia became the first tech company to provide demos to the tech fraternity in Kenya when it held an Innovation Day last year at Southern Sun Mayfair in Westlands, Nairobi.

Technology is moving fast, with videos leading on the type of content being consumed online across the globe.

We will benefit from 5G super-fast speeds in revolutionising most sectors in terms of cost reduction, better quality goods and saving time.

The bands we have for connection are giving us slower connections due to congestion that sometimes lead to network outage. We need to avoid this.

Moreover, there is need for connection of more devices whose services can be accesses in real time, from wherever you are on the planet.

There are three frequency spectrums for 5G, measured  in gigahertz (GHz): (i) LTE frequency range (600 MHz to 6 GHz) – This is used in early deployment of 5G and can connect devices on a large geographical region. It is what most developed countries are using. It currently relies on existing 4G LTE (Long-Term Evolution) networks to ensure consistency in online service delivery to end users. (ii) Millimeter wave (24–86 GHz) – Not many countries have this spectrum but it allows connection of billions of devices in a much less geographical area. It is the fastest in transmitting the heaviest data files on a cloud. (iii) High frequency range (86 GHz and beyond) – There is doubt whether this exists but providers term it the ‘epitome of technology’ as  it is expected to provide the highest speeds in localised areas such military bases.

South Africa, Egypt and Uganda that have in the last three months launched 5G networks have used Huawei’s technology to achieve this feat, with Kenya now expected to be the fourth African country to benefit from this Chinese technology.

Huawei has also beat its rivals in the Kenyan market with its Mate 30, and Chinese Xiaomi Redme K30 being the only devices that are 5G-ready.

Chinese technology giants Huawei and Zhongxing Telecommunications Equipment Corporation (ZTE) have expanded to become the bloodstream of Africa’s telecoms infrastructure.

The European Union (EU) Network Information Security Cooperation Group released a toolbox of recommended measures to mitigate security risks in 5G networks, effectively putting a caveat on the two firms.

In the European meet, the tool box released acknowledged that suppliers with high risk profiles (companies based in third world countries that lack democratic checks and balances) should face additional restrictions. The tool kit also called on EU member states to exclude high risk suppliers from critical and sensitive parts of their 5G networks, which includes the Radio Access Network.

The launch of 5G phones and manufacture of 5G sim cards will only happen when the infrastructure and spectrum have been defined and installed. Manufacturers will ensure these phones can adapt to both 4G and 5G networks, switching flexibly according to network availability in different locations.

Despite all the promises of 5G connectivity, the 4G network has not penetrated into many parts of Kenya, with low income earners in rural areas still enjoying 2G and 3G networks.

Since the 5G spectrum only covers a certain geographical region and at a high frequency absent in remote areas, it won’t be a solution to this challenge.

Remember that 5G operates in high device traffic areas such as urban centers, and in shorter radii. This means Kenyans in rural areas will keep using 3G.

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