Safaricom partners with Google for upcoming Kshs 20 per day 4G smartphone package

Safaricom plans to launch a 4G smartphone package that allows customers to pay for them for as low as Kshs 20 daily.

This was revealed by the company’s new Chief Executive Officer, Peter Ndegwa, this morning as the company announced its results for the 2019-2020 financial year.

The move is informed by the high number of Kenyans yet to upgrade to smartphones and who are still using mobile phones reliant on 2G network technology at a time when the world is already embracing fifth-generation network technologies.

Earlier reports have indicated that Safaricom is on course to initiating limited 5G trials in the country by the end of the year, making it one of the first telecommunications companies on the continent to do so.

According to Safaricom’s financial year 2019-2020 report, the company’s 4G user base rose by 84% year over year to account for 6.1 million devices on its network, up from 4.5 million in the previous financial year. This, in turn, pushed the average mobile data used by a subscriber to 1.2GB, up from just a gigabyte the previous year.

“With the growth of smartphone usage in Kenya, we are witnessing a marked increase in income generated by those with internet-enabled devices versus those who do not have. Vendors have been able to increase their customer bases by leveraging online market places and bodaboda riders are taking advantage of the online taxis or delivery services and mobile applications to increase their income,” Ndegwa said.

“Despite the high percentage in mobile telephone penetration in Kenya, there remains a large population in this country that still uses 2G phones; tough economic environment being the main reason they cannot afford smartphones. We intend to bridge the gap for these consumers by offering [a] device financing programme,” he added.

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Dubbed Lipa Mdogo Mdogo, the device financing programme will see an additional 1 million people, according to Safaricom, be able to access the internet from their phones courtesy of Safaricom’s expansive 4G network.

Google estimates that the number of 2G feature phones in the country makes up for 60% of all mobile phones in use with smartphones still leapfrogging them at 40%.

Lipa Mdogo Mdogo joins a growing list of initiatives by the network operator, the biggest in the country, to bring as many Kenyans as possible online and bridge the digital divide.

Previously, the company has offered devices – like the Neon Kicka 4 – under a layby programme where one gets to pay for the device in installments over a 3-month period and then pick up the device at a Safaricom shop after clearing the last installment.

Dubbed Maisha Ni Digital, that campaign has seen Safaricom sell nearly 1 million entry-level smartphones, according to Google, in its low-cost Neon lineup.

Safaricom has enlisted Google’s help in the Lipa Mdogo Mdogo drive. From what we have seen before, this will likely entail getting Google’s nod to preload the branded devices Safaricom will offer to the customers with the Go edition of Android. Android Go, as we know it, allows device makers and their partners, like Safaricom, to offer a reasonable smartphone experience on low-resource hardware by offering “lite” versions of apps and an equally less-demanding platform for those apps to run on.

Recently, the company partnered with Samsung and Pay-As-You-Go renewable energy firm M-Kopa to offer the latter’s customers smartphones through its retail store network for Kshs 60 per day.

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On the other side of the spectrum, among those that already have smartphones, Safaricom announced back in March that it will soon be releasing a device financing plan tied to its revamped postpaid product.

Lipa Mdogo Mdogo is currently in a pilot phase and is expected to be launched by the end of June.

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