The potential benefits of the fifth-generation (5G) mobile technology network are many for both users and telecommunications firms in Kenya.
For consumers, super-fast internet means convenience in their day-to-day activities, especially at a time when most official and personal engagements have shifted to digital platforms that require reliable broadband.
To telcos and internet firms, the digital shift by consumers means business opportunities to provide networks that would match the demand and smooth out their internet-dependent lives. As such, the anticipation of a 5G network rollout in Kenya remains high, with the major telcos, Safaricom and Airtel, having already done extensive trials on the super-fast internet network on hundreds of sites spread across the country.
The Communications Authority of Kenya (CA), however, would not allow for the immediate switching of this 5G network. It insists on further consultations with the public and other interest groups on issues such as inclusion.
A key concern by the regulator is that a rushed shift to 5G holds the risk of excluding a large chunk of consumers who lack access to the expensive gear required to support the technology.
Apart from the risk of exclusion, CA is certainly alive to the global debate that the rollout of 5G networks may interfere with sensitive airplane instruments such as altimeters and significantly hinder low-visibility operations.
We are caught in a situation that requires decisiveness so that we don’t deny consumers access to top-quality internet while also dealing with the risk of interfering with aviation safety.
The state must act efficiently and ascertain the veracity of the 5G risk claims to the aviation sector.
It should also engage telcos on the subject of consumer inclusion through affordable smartphones to avoid potential legal hurdles by persons who may feel discriminated against.
The regulator and telcos should dialogue on all these sticky issues to pave the way for the 5G rollout.