Kenya’s mobile phone operator Safaricom has suspended plans for the launch of the fifth generation (5G) mobile internet service in the short-term amid escalating global security concerns over the equipment supplied by the Chinese firm Huawei Technologies.
Safaricom had completed testing and trial of the 5G superfast internet service and planned to switch major urban centres to the service before end of 2020.
Kenya’s Safaricom 5G network was being built by Huawei, which the US has accused of working at the command of Beijing.
According to The Economist, the US government, on May 15, announced a startling escalation in its campaign against Huawei, a Chinese company — the largest provider of telecoms equipment in the world. The US has since 2012 expressed concerns that mobile networks that rely on Huawei could allow espionage and sabotage by China.
In 2019, Huawei became the second-largest global seller of smartphones, surpassing Apple, Inc for the first time and coming behind number one Samsung Electronics Co. Inc. The Huawei was founded in 1987 by a former officer of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army and the company has grown into a technology giant selling millions of smartphones annually, with help from its ties to the Chinese government. As a result, several countries around the world led by the US have become concerned that the telco may use its technology to spy on customers.
In May 2020, President Donald Trump issued an executive order banning all US companies from utilising information and communications technology from any party considered a national security threat.
Last year, Safaricom launched a Ksh20 ($0.18) a day 4G smart phone package aimed at empowering customers currently on 2G devices to upgrade and enjoy high-speed Internet connectivity. The new campaign seeks to empower an extra one million customers to upgrade to 4G enabled devices in the 2020/2021 financial year.
Safaricom is 35 percent owned by South Africa’s largest mobile phone operator Vodacom and the government of Kenya which owns a similar stake. British Vodafone owns five per cent of the shares while the remaining 25 percent are held by individual and institutional investors.
Kenya and the US formally launched negotiations on July 8, for a bilateral trade pact that the two economies hope could serve as a model for additional agreements across Africa.