Kathy Gibson is at Mobile World Congress 2019 in Barcelona – Kenya’s Safaricom is to build the world’s first end-to-end 400G backbone network.

The network operator will deploy’s Huawei’s end-to-end systems as it upgrades its existing 100G backbone to increase traffic volumes between the main urban centres of Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumi.

It will be the first IP+optical 400G network using Huawei’s backbone router and optical transport network platform. The backbone router provides ultra-large capacity of up to 400GE per port while doubling the transmission capacity per fibre. With fast reroute and automatically-switched optical network technologies, the 400G solution can enable protection switching in seconds – an important feature for sensitive services like mobile money.

Thibaud Rirolle, chief technology officer at Safaricom.

Thibaud Rirolle, chief technology officer at Safaricom, comments that today’s announcement is a milestone for Safaricom, which has been Kenya’s leading operator for the last 18 years.

He points out that more than 46-million Kenyans are mobile subscribers, of whom more than 29-million use the Safaricom services.

“Our leadership is driven by our purpose of transforming the lives of Kenyans,” Rirolle says. “We do this by investing in technology that adds value to our customers’ lives, and striving to deliver modern, world-class technology to customers wherever they might be in Kenya.”

Safaricom’s network reaches more than 95% of the population and it has invested in more than half of the network infrastructure in the country. It has also invested in fibre, with 220 00 homes and 17 000 business connected. An investment in data centres underpins the network and services.

“But what do these numbers mean for our customers?” Rirolle asks. “About 18 years ago, there were just 300 000 land lines in the country. Owning a phone was a luxury and the preserve of the privileged. But we had the conviction that extending connectivity to customers would have a major impact on people’s lives.

“Behind our success was a gamble: that if we invested in bringing the best technology to customers they would reward us with their trust. This gamble has paid off.”

Rirolle cites the example of M-Pesa, which today processes 17-million transactions per day, making it the world’s biggest mobile money service.

Safaricom was the first in Kenya to launch 4G, which customers have eagerly embraced. It was also the first to roll out a 4G-plus network at more than 100Mbps.

“Today it is an honour to go beyond the benchmark of country-first or regional-first,” Rirolle says. “We are now the first operator in the world to deploy a 400gbps backbone network, which is a significant step in meeting the growing needs of our customers.

“The launch of the E2E 400G backbone and IPCore is a milestone in terms of how we prepare for the future, investing at the right time and supporting the growing video-rich content,” Rirolle adds.

400G is an important milestone for telecommunications, says Jeffrey Gao, president of Huawei router and carrier Ethernet product line

“Huawei has played an active role in advancing the 400G industry, and has invested heavily in NP chips that support 400G ports, high-speed optical digital signal processors (ODSPs) and backbone network standards and products,” he says. “We are leading the industry in many technologies such as 400G and cloud computing.

“Built on 400G ultra-high bandwidth, Huawei backbone networks will address service uncertainties and lead the development of the backbone industry.”