Kenya has now 3 network operators after YU (by Essar Telekom) has been closed:
- Airtel (formerly Zain)
- Telkom (formerly Orange)
2G is on 900 and 1800 MHz and 3G on 2100 MHz on all three providers. 4G/LTE has started in 2014 with Safaricom on 800 and 1800 MHz and is about to start on the other networks on 800 MHz by the end of 2016.
Coverage is pretty good, except for the very remote areas in the north, but mobile towers are sometimes overloaded, which leads to slow speeds. But the mobile network is rapidly being expanded.
In Kenya mobile phones are often used as a payment method. So advanced payment systems are employed by all three providers for all kinds of payments. Even a first MVNO called Equitel has started in 2014 as a subsidiary of a local bank providing only banking and payment services so far.
For the purchase of a SIM card, you officially need to show a Kenyan photo ID or passport as all subscribers need to be registered since 2010. But on the streets, this is not always enforced. The government has released new rules on the use of SIM cards in 2017. Giving a stranger one's phone to make a distress call could now lead to 6 months behind bars and a fine of KES 10,000, if the mobile device has been used to commit a crime.
The regulator says all Kenyans must only use registered SIM cards as they may be culpable in the event that their number is used in the commission of a crime. When purchasing a SIM card, one should demand that it be registered promptly and receive proof of registration before starting to use the line. This mainly concerns buying SIM cards from hawkers on the street. Officially every buyer must provide a copy of their ID as proof of identity before the new line is registered and activated for use. These guidelines are likely to affect the sale of SIM cards on the streets at between KES 50-100 by sales agents who still hardly request any form of identity from buyers. This warning comes on the back of rising concern over incidents of extortion, killings and kidnappings linked to abuse of mobile phone lines.
Safaricom is the dominant provider in the country. It's co-owned by Vodafone and the public. It has a whopping 75% of the national subscriber base and the best coverage even in remote areas. Because of its many users, it can be overcrowded and suffer from slow speeds.
4G/LTE has started in 2014 in the cities of Nairobi and Mombasa on 800 and 1800 MHz. This was extended in 2016 to the towns of Nakuru, Elodret, Meru, Kisii and Kisumu. By the end of 2016 further towns are about to follow for 4G and a 80% 3G coverage is intended. Safaricom's payment system is called M-Pesa.
It is easy to buy or recharge a Safaricom prepaid card nearly anywhere in Kenya. For registration, you should go to one of their or M-Pesa stores. To confirm if you are fully registered, dial *232#. Otherwise, your line can be suspended.
Their only prepaid SIM card is sold for 100 KES. For 4G use be sure to buy a 4G-enabled SIM. New 4G subscribers will get 4 GB of data free for two days to test out the network (promotion until 26/Dec/2016).
Top-ups can be made with vouchers called Bamba sold everywhere. Value is 5 to 1000 KES and validity ranges from 30 to 120 days.
Data feature packsEdit
The default rate out of bundles is 4 KES per MB. Safaricom offers these new packages for data:
|5 KES||7 MB||24 hours|
|10 KES||15 MB||24 hours|
|20 KES||35 MB||24 hours|
|30 KES||60 MB||24 hours|
|50 KES||150 MB||24 hours|
|5 KES||5 MB||7 days|
|10 KES||10 MB||7 days|
|30 KES||30 MB||7 days|
|50 KES||65 MB||7 days|
|99 KES||200 MB||7 days|
|250 KES||350 MB||30 days|
|500 KES||1 GB||30 days|
|1499 KES||5 GB||30 days|
|2000 KES||7.5 GB||30 days|
|3000 KES||12 GB||30 days|
|3000 KES||6 GB||90 days|
|6000 KES||16 GB||90 days|
|9000 KES||30 GB||90 days|
To activate the bundles type *544# or buy them online. You will receive a message informing you of the status of activation of the bundle. You will be able to use the service once you receive an SMS informing you that the bundle has been activated.
Unlimited bundles or night-time rates have been discontiued. To check balance type *144#, to check data balance of bundles *450*1#. You can roll over unused data on 7 day, 30 day and 90 day bundles, if you buy a new one before the old has expired. Safaricom sends you a notification 48 hours before the bundle expires informing you about the expiry of the internet bundle.
It's possible to obtain the settings automatically by sending an SMS or entering a system command on the phone. But they are also easy to set manually.
- APN: safaricom
- Username: saf (not required for Android)
- Password: data (not required for Android)
- Website: Safaricom
Their SIM card is sold in their stores and outlets (Store locator). Airtel welcomes customers topping up airtime worth KES 50 and above on their new SIM card with KES 30 for calls and SMS to any network in Kenya and 30 MB of data valid for 7 days. Customers also get free access to WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter during the same period. Customers who choose to top up airtime worth KES 20 on their new SIM card get KES 10 for calls and texts to any network in Kenya and 10 MB of data, all valid for three days and the same free social media use.
Top-ups can be made online by credit card or by vouchers.
Data feature packsEdit
Weekly bundles are sold and for 90 days:
|5 KES||6 MB||7 days|
|10 KES||15 MB||7 days|
|20 KES||20 MB||7 days|
|50 KES||70 MB||7 days|
|100 KES||140 MB||7 days|
|90 days bundles:|
|50 KES||50 MB||90 days|
|100 KES||125 MB||90 days|
|250 KES||400 MB||90 days|
|500 KES||1 GB||90 days|
|1000 KES||2 GB||90 days|
|3000 KES||10 GB||90 days|
|6000 KES||30 GB||90 days|
|7000 KES||55 GB||90 days|
To purchase, dial *544# or go online.
Data-only SIM Edit
For their modem called UnlimiNET they sell "unlimited" data-only bundles:
- for 24 hours: 99 KES, 500 MB
- for 7 days: 599 KES, 5 GB
- for 30 days: 2999 KES, 20 GB
The "unlimited" only refers to WhatsApp, Facebook, Gmail, Twitter & Instagram social media. Other data will be throttled to 256 kbps having reached the quota. To add more data two add-on packs are offered:
- 1 GB: 199 KES
- 5 GB: 699 KES
Bundles and add-ons can be purchased by dialling *544# and select unlimiNET modem.
- APN: internet
More information Edit
- Website: Airtel Kenya
Telkom (formerly Orange)Edit
Telkom in Kenya is the smallest provider caring for only 6% of the country's users. It was sold by Orange Group to private equity firm Helios Investment Partners in June 2016. Helios holds 60% and the Government of Kenya the rest. They have dropped the Orange brand and adopted Telkom as its new trading name in 2017.
It has the lowest coverage in the country, but because of their few users, it can give great speeds,when you are covered. In 2015 the migration from their old CDMA to GSM network has ended and its CDMA network closed. 4G/LTE has started in the towns of Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu and has spread to 17 further towns. 2G coverage is at 95%, 3G at 55% in 2017.
Their SIM card is sold in their shops and outlets (Store locator). Their standard plan is called Tujuane. If you choose not to use the services for a period of over 180 days after the end of the validity of your last recharge the SIM will be suspended.
Top-ups can be made by vouchers or Pesapoint ATMs.
Data feature packsEdit
Default rate ouside of bundles is 4 KES per MB. They offer these data packages:
|15 MB||1 day||9 KES|
|40 MB||19 KES|
|100 MB||39 KES|
|400 MB||49 KES|
|20 MB||7 days||19 KES|
|80 MB||49 KES|
|200 MB||99 KES|
|500 MB||199 KES|
|2 GB||249 KES|
|12 GB||990 KES|
|150 MB||30 days||99 KES|
|400 MB||199 KES|
|1.5 GB||499 KES|
|4 GB||999 KES|
|6 GB||1499 KES|
|10 GB||1999 KES|
|20 GB||2999 KES|
|100 GB||90 days||8999 KES|
A customer can subscribe to the packages by dialing #123#. This short code will open up to a USSD menu that will have various options for various bundle purchases and unsubscription to the bundle.
Balance check is *131# and overuse charged at the default rate.
You can extend the validity of your bundle by purchasing another bundle of equal or higher validity period just before the current bundle expires except the daily offers which can only be extended by another daily offer.
For their new 4G/LTE network they give out 1 GB data for free per day on 4G only. Activation of this offer is by *544# and choose the promotion, if you have 4G coverage.
Free 50 MB are awarded to WhatsApp per day. To subscribe dial *544# and select “FREE Whatsapp”. You can call, chat and share videos.
More information Edit
- APN: bew.orange.co.ke
- Website: http://www.telkom.co.ke