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In a Surprise Move, Kenya’s Safaricom Suspends Its Huawei-Powered 5G Roll Out


Kenya’s largest telecom operator, Safaricom, announced on Tuesday that it will suspend deployment of its new Huawei-powered fifth-generation (5G) mobile network. The news came as a surprise to many, given that the company has already completed testing and trials of the new network’s high-speed mobile connections. 

It was widely expected that Safaricom would make its 5G service available to customers by the end of 2020 or sometime in the first quarter of this year. Now, CEO Peter Ndegwa says the company will instead focus on converting millions of existing 2G and 3G customers to 4G service instead.

Beyond that explanation, Safaricom has not provided any further details. Although there’s been some speculation in the Kenyan press that security concerns related to Huawei equipment also played a role in the decision, it’s very important to note that neither Ndegwa nor any other company official has said anything to that effect. 

In fact, Safaricom and the Kenyan government have both been staunch supporters of Huawei until now, so it would be unusual if they suddenly reversed course and aligned themselves with the U.S.-led effort to not use equipment made by the Chinese telecom giant.

The U.S. government has mounted an increasingly successful worldwide campaign to discourage countries and telcos from using Huawei networking equipment in their new 5G networks due to the company’s “close ties to the Chinese military and intelligence communities as well as the Communist Party.”

Huawei has not commented on the Safaricom 5G decision.

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