The upgrade, which cost Sh10 billion, will see better user experience for Safaricom’s subscribers which include faster internet, better voice quality, improved coverage and more capacity for voice calls among others.
A key benefit of the modernized equipment is its ability to easily upgrade to 4G LTE technology.
According to Safaricom’s Director of Technology Thibaud Rerolle, the upgrade will be essential as the company upgrades its network to 4G in 16 cities around the country before the end of the current financial year.
“Safaricom is the only network in the country to be on 4G. Already, Nairobi and Mombasa are on 4G. We hope that Narok will be on 4G by October this year,” he said during the last modernisation phase of the network at Narok.
Kenya becomes the second country on the continent after Rwanda to adapt the 4G LTE network.
The company has already modernised 2,000 stations all over the 47 counties with Narok being the last stop.
“For the last four years, Safaricom has been replacing legacy systems with new systems that come with the latest technologies. Most of the equipment we have been using was of older technology. However, the new technology that we have put in place is the latest,” he said.
Rerolle further said that Safaricom will invest Sh18 billion into improving its network by the end its current financial year.
Nokia Siemens was Safaricom’s partner for the Narok modernization phase as the equipment’s manufacturers and installer. However, Safaricom partnered with Huawei in upgrading the equipment in previous phases in selected locations.
The upgrade is especially necessary for Narok County.
According to Narok County Chief Officer of ICT and e-government Ntaine Ole Nkere, the county’s main source of income – tourism and agriculture – will benefit.
“The Maasai Mara, which has the world’s eighth wonder, draws a lot of tourists who will appreciate better voice calls and faster internet speed,” he said.
An institution such as Maasai Mara University which has at least 7,000 students is also set to benefit from the upgrade.
“The upgrade comes at an opportune time when the county government is moving its services to the digital platform. We can now become a fully-fledged e-government,” he explained.
He also added that the locals, who depend heavily on farming barley, potatoes and animal keeping, were set to benefit from the upgrade as they transact their businesses using the network’s M-Pesa and voice calls.
The upgrade is also crucial to the network’s corporate customers across the country. It will also assist in the uptake of the company’s recently launched set-top box, The BigBox, whose services include internet.
Going Forward, Safaricom projects to get 80 per cent of the country on 3G network by March 2016. Already, Safaricom has five times more number of 3G stations across the country next to its closest competitor.