Safaricom has announced Kenya's first ever telecommunications lab. The first phase of the lab has been put up at the cost of Sh. 200 million and replicates Safaricom's entire networking including the billing platform, application servers such as M-PESA, Safaricom's cloud, microwave, 2G, 3G and 4G networks in a single room.
Safaricom has collaborated with a number of industry players including Cisco, Huawei, Nokia and others who have donated equipment and expertise to the lab, which is located at the firm's headquarters in Nairobi.
Safaricom's more than 27 million customers will benefit from this investment, which will see fast tracking of deployment of new technology and solutions. Previously, the inherent risk of testing and deploying upgrades on live networks has impacted the pace at which such improvements can be rolled out.
In addition, the lab will serve as a training environment for new engineers and those working on new technologies, and also as a testing ground for new ideas that can be developed into new telecommunication solutions.
The Technology Lab will, however, allow vigorous and expedited testing of such upgrades meaning that they can be deployed on the live network at less than half the time it has usually taken.
"In the last five years, Safaricom has put in place various measures to attract, retain and develop world-class local talent in the telecommunications sector. The launch of this research and development lab, the first in the region, is a step towards shifting the country from simply being an importer of telecommunication solutions to one that also creates such solutions," said Thibaud Rerolle, Director- Technology, Safaricom.
Among technologies currently undergoing testing in the lab ahead of live network deployment include a 1 Gigabit per Second (Gbps) LTE-Advanced 4G technology which allows aggregation of up to a maximum of five 4G carriers, a trial mobile network that runs on the cloud and Internet of Things (IoT) trials, including IoT-enabled smart water meters.
Safaricom's partners are also using the lab as a global test centre for new solutions before sale and deployment to mobile operators across the world.
Subsequent phases of the lab will add more elements of Safaricom's network in the lab and will also see it being opened up for the training of telecommunication engineering students from various universities across the country.