“Faiba 4G” packs a lot of promise, but they have a very long way to go to even threaten Safaricom

So JTL a couple of days ago launched the latest network provider in Kenya dubbed “Faiba 4G”. Theirs are the cheapest data prices we’ve seen in Kenya. No other provider can match Faiba’s data prices. And many people are so for it that they are calling this the much awaited death of other competitors especially Safaricom.

I read the article by Boniface Githinji on Techweez titled “Why this is Faiba’s war to lose” where he very rightly states that “when it comes to pricing wars, it is the person who can sustain the war the longest that will win“.

Boniface argues that Faiba have the ability to drop their prices to very low and still survive because their core business remains home and business internet solutions which they have been doing successfully for 5 years. Whereas Safaricom and other competitors may not be able to drop their prices as much as Faiba because they need to not only post growth but also satisfy their shareholders. And in that way, Faiba would have won.

The arguments are correct, and I believe if things go well, Faiba might win the war. In the long run. But things aren’t going well. I don’t think they are. There are a couple of things to consider that may hold Faiba back for a while. A long while. They are:

Apparently the Communication Authority issued licence of operation to Jamii Telecoms in a controversial manner. They didn’t pay the required amount all other operators pay. This may be contested in court, and if successful it will hold them back. Or even block them entirely.

Very many phones don’t support the 700MHz spectrum on which Faiba 4G operates. And the few that support the band, don’t support VoLTE that would enable you to make calls on the network.
it will take a while for manufacturers to have updates for the few phones that may support the band to get VoLTE, and a longer while for customers to have phones that support the network.
Even if Faiba is approaching the market as a data focused mobile network, they need a reasonable number of users to justify their operations. And getting this number of users may prove difficult.

Faiba was launched as a purely 4G network. Most people in the country own 3G and 2G phones. Those in the rural areas own ‘kabambes, kadudas and mulika mwizis’. This is where Safaricom has its stronghold as it provides all those connectivity services. A recent survey by Safaricom showed that since it launched its 4G services back in 2014, only 1 million users are using it. This is will prove to be very difficult for JTL to conquer since many people use their phones for calls and 3G connectivity.

Let’s not lie to each other, Safaricom’s money transfer program, MPESA is what is keeping it going in the long run. It is no coincidence to find an MPESA kiosk after every 500 metres. Its ease of access even in the rural areas proves to be a cash cow for the telco. JTL promised to come up with their own program, Faiba Money and spread it around the country. We will wait and see how it will go in a country where Airtel Money stalls don’t register even a single money transfer transaction.

Ever since Faiba launched, many areas around Kenya still don’t know whether or not the network is available in their area or where to get the SIM cards. The 700MHZ range is good for cities as it penetrates buildings well. It is good for rural areas as it travels longer distances. But what’s Faiba’s countrywide percentage coverage? Where are their SIM cards? Where are their MiFi dongles? Where are their agents?
I believe if they were serious about a “take over” of the data market, having their SIM cards and the MiFi dongles all over the areas where the network is available pre-launch would have made a lot more sense. How they handle the coming weeks, rolling out SIM cards, training agents, will also show just how serious the company is moving forward.

Faiba is coming into the market when Airtel and Telkom Kenya are seriously waging data wars against Safaricom.
They’re also launching at a time Safaricom is waging a more serious war against Faiba Home internet with their own Home Internet solution that’s now passed over 90,000 homes. Faiba Business is also facing competition from Safaricom’s Business solution that packs more promises.

So yes, JTL may have a strong backbone in data to lower prices as they want, but their backbone is already being threatened by Safaricom itself.

What way Faiba?

Faiba has a lot of promise. But

a license scuffle,
smartphones that still don’t and won’t support their network,
a not so good/exciting launch into market and competitors who won’t back down
threatens their business. I feel like it will take a while for them to properly make a statement in the market. A way for them to grow really well, in my not-so-expert opinion, is focusing on being a solution for small businesses and homes where they can assure connectivity and provide the MiFi dongles. Then slowly push themselves as more companies offer Band 28 compatible smartphones.

What I see Safaricom do is this:
Lower their data prices a little bit down to counter Telkom and Airtel. Or not.
Keep quiet about Faiba 4G, ignore their existence
Continue satisfying their customers by being the reliable and consistent network
Grow their Home and Business solutions.
Build their other platforms like Masoko etc. And wait for the future.
But… Jamii Telecoms is kind of ‘future proof’.

What are your thoughts? I could be wrong.

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Acknowledge source!!


if they really wanted to penetrate the data market they should have included those with 3G capability phones but how many users have phones with VoLTe support? this is bound to fail

the voLTE band 28 i believe its cheap to install. Then there is the Nokia-Faiba partnership. These are the two strong keypoint to make faiba prosper

For Kshs 1,000/= , i get 25GB valid for 30 days compare to Safaricom’s 3GB. Now that’s sweet. I’m on Safaricom for calls and Mpesa, as for data. Faiba all the way. I’ll let them worry about the licence and enjoy while it lasts.


story mob za bure. accept the challenge. faiba all the way

Hii itawork powa na the right modem…halafu unaconnect kwa router na kusambazia network yako ya hao na majirani.
Ideal sana huko ocha

Faiba disappointed me with their home internet. They should improve that before swallowing more than they can chew. Safcom, though damn expe, are reliable. They should relaunch faiba home afresh and promise heaven

Unatumia simu IPI and where did you get the sim card?


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Upper Hill. Bought Nokia 2 and the Mi-Fi router. The Nokia is for experimental purposes. I carry the router to use on my phones.

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CSI we are overworking

Simcard ziko? ama they just threw a big party to make us happy.

Tuambiwe tuu mahali sim card ziko or it never happened na ni kelele tupu ara !

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Cut them some slack in a years time all phones in the market will be 4G enabled since almost all smartphones in production are 4G enabled . When it comes to coverage, the towns carry the majority of the targeted data users so it makes sense to start with towns and rollout in the rural areas later. It’s unfair to compare safaricom which had time to get where they are with faiba which launched a couple of months ago and expect them to be the same. I expected such assessment atleast 9 months after launch. I hope they succeed . just give them a chance.


Valid points but when we talk pricing and its sustainability, safaricom enjoys ecomomies of scale shareholder interests notwithstanding. Two, Faiba has alot to do in terms of consumer base seeing as safaricom is well spread.

At the moment Faiba has 300 base station and in 2 years they will have installed up to 1000 base station which will be strong and easily compete with safcom in terms of coverage. It’s not fair to assume assume that the current state of faiba is permanent. But I could advise them to put up a website a customer care at the moment

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Most Nokia phones (the new entrants) are VoLTE compatible. Otherwise kuna an array of 4G phones kwa markt saa hii

Has anyone tried the voLTE calls walalala ndio safaricom watajua hawajui . Calls connect in seconds. Yaani immediately u press the call button ishaanza kuitana huku kwingine…faiba is the game changer now everyone when they decide to buy a phone they must ensure the voLTE band is supported…naona watu wakijenga ploti wenye wataleta hizo simu za voLTE hio internet yao is very fair. Not everyone is going to run for faiba of course bado Kuna watu wanapreffer kutumia mulika mwizi…