This week, Orange and Safaricom were busy launching higher speeds on the 3G network. As usual, Safaricom was the first to launch and few days later Orange did.

Safaricom invite said that the speeds were increasing from 14 megabits per second (mbps) to 21mbps on their 3G network. I remember a friend asking me whether I have ever hit 14mbps on 3G and to be honest I have never, the best I have got is 7mbps and given that I had used the modem from the days of 2G (Edge) I was happy.

The problem is that no one tells us that when we say 7mbps, thats the speed that you will probably not ever reach, the average speeds will be 3mbps or something, that is why they do tests. So, dont expect to hit 21mbps yet on your modem.

For the sake of clarity, this post will address 3G on GSM and CDMA, which is currently being offered by Orange. The two technologies use 3G, only that one has better experience for voice and data while the other one is not exactly nice.

CDMA (code division multiple access) is mainly known as the landlines that we carry around, Orange provides a 020 number which comes in handy for landlines calls, its probably the reason Telkom Kenya stopped extending its copper and ADSL service, which can be addressed in another post.

CDMA uses 3G and Orange provides speeds of 3mbps download and upload of 1mbps, but if you are more into voice and data on your handset, it does not give a good experience especially if you are used to GSM. Use it for data or voice separately and you will enjoy otherwise you will not have good things to say about Orange. I have tried it and had to trash it.

So, what does it mean to subscribers?

In technical terms, it means that Safaricom and Orange have upgraded their GSM networks from High Speed Packet Access (HSPA) that supports speeds of up to 14mbps to a higher version, maybe HSPA+ which can support speeds of up to 42mbps (no confirmation of platform yet).  Theoretically, 3G networks reach max speeds of 7.2Mbps down and 1.4Mbps up but later technologies improve on the speeds e.g HSPA.

Out of 1500 3G sites, Safaricom says  80 sites are upgraded and users can enjoy faster speeds. Orange says it has 220 3G sites but its not clear how many have been upgraded.

This means that now the modem will be accessing internet faster and pages will be opening faster.  This will cost more or less depending on how you use the net. For those in cyber cafes or paying per shilling on the mobile, you may use lesser money because the pages load faster.

For those paying per megabyte (MB) may not see signficate change but this will depend of the websites accessed e.g if you access videos, they are heavier compared to plain sites like

The cost will also depend on whether the sites are hosted locally or abroad, local sites may be make the cost lower because they load faster and other video sites like You tube may load faster because Google has hosted some of that content locally. Read more about it here.

There has been constant complaints that the modem is expensive; this maybe the case but people are also careless, we leave websites downloading even when you have accessed the content you were looking for. For instance, at the lower end of your browser, you see a lot of stuff going on like 5 out of 15 downloading, if its at six and you have gotten what you were looking for, click on the stop button and you will save on the MBs.

Orange will argue that at the cost of 4o cents per MB, you do not need to stop the download because its cheaper but then, it depends on our spending habits.

The other thing is a choice of whether the modem works for you or you need another internet service. If you use Ksh. 3k or more on mobile data or on the modem, you need to explore other options that will allow better experience.

So, enjoyed the speeds? Share with us your experience.