Kenya’s largest telecommunications operator Safaricom has become the first company in the world to commercially deploy the next-generation backbone network to cater for rising data traffic.

A backbone is a high-speed link that interconnects different networks and facilitates the exchange of data between them.

“It is the underlying elements that connect all the big data centres in our network. That connectivity needs to serve a growing demand. That is why we need to increase the capacity we can serve,” Safaricom chief technology officer Thibaud Rerolle said on Wednesday.

The deployment of the backbone network — that will achieve speeds of 400GB per second, compared to the previous 100GB — is in response to the growing number of broadband users as well as mobile- and fixed-network traffic in the east African country.

On Wednesday, on the sidelines of World Mobile Congress in Barcelona, Safaricom, which is 35% owned by Vodacom, announced that it has selected Huawei’s 400G backbone network.

“Through this solution, Safaricom seeks to meet growing demand from its customers resulting from the expansion of its fibre-to-the-home and enterprise fibre networks. The firm has also been experiencing a year-on-year doubling of mobile data usage on its network,” Huawei said in a statement.

Rerolle said Safaricom, whose network reaches about 95% of Kenya’s population, has invested heavily in fibre, with 220 000 homes and 17,000 businesses now connected.

“About 18 years ago, there were just 300,000 land lines in the country. Owning a phone was a luxury ... But we had the conviction that extending connectivity to customers would have a major impact on people’s lives. Behind our success was a game. If we invested in bringing the best technology to customers they would reward us with their trust,” Rerolle said.

He made reference to Safaricom’s mobile money platform, M-Pesa, which has grown substantially since its launch in 2007 and currently facilitates more than 17-million transactions a day.


The writer was a guest of Huawei at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.