(Ecofin Agency) - African telecom operators are increasingly turning to space technology to accelerate network coverage. Since March 2022, Safaricom has had an ongoing partnership agreement with satellite telecom services provider Intelsat.
Kenyan telecommunications operator, Safaricom, will utilize AST SpaceMobile's satellite capabilities to enhance its mobile services reach in Kenya, especially in remote rural areas.
As part of a partnership agreement between Vodafone Group, a Safaricom shareholder, and AST SpaceMobile, both parties conducted basic functionality tests of AST SpaceMobile's BlueWalker 3 satellite in 2022. This was followed by a formal trial in the second quarter of 2023, in collaboration with Vodacom and Safaricom.
This partnership comes at a time when African telecom operators seek to boost network coverage in response to the demand for high-speed connectivity and rapid digital transformation across the continent. Space technology proves more suitable as it provides broader coverage, reaching even populations living in remote and difficult-to-access rural areas, where terrestrial networks may struggle to reach.
In March 2022, Safaricom signed a multi-year contract with satellite telecom services provider Intelsat to modernize its network and expand LTE coverage to more subscribers nationwide. Under the agreement, Intelsat provides Safaricom with satellite cellular backhaul services and enterprise connectivity using its end-to-end managed Ku-band CellBackhaul service.
These strategic initiatives are poised to have a significant impact on Safaricom's market presence. By enhancing its network capabilities, Safaricom aims to attract thousands of additional subscribers, solidifying its position as a telecom market leader in Kenya.
The latest statistics from the Communications Authority (CA) show Safaricom holding a dominant 66.2% share of the mobile telephony market. Airtel Kenya follows with 26.7%, while Telkom Kenya, Jamii Telecom, and Finserve (Equitel) trail behind, holding 4.2%, 0.6%, and 2.3% of the national subscriber base, respectively.
Isaac K. Kassouwi