Airtel or Safaricom? Who Offers Better Mobile Data Deals & High Internet Speeds?

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It is going to come to this point. Who is unavoidable? Who is faster? Who is better in telecommunication battle in Kenya? Safaricom data or Airtel data?  And how will pricing affect that balance.

Well, very soon it will depend on how majority of Kenyans use their cell phones especially on social media or online. In the new digital world, efficiency needs will define your position before pricing.


According to Communication Authority of Kenya Q1 2016 statistics report, Safaricom Internet subscribers grew by 10.4% to hit 13.8 million users from 12.5 million. It had 64.1% of total market share as subscribers while Airtel had 17.5% market share with 3.7 Million internet users Mobile penetration across the country increased .

The Q1 2016 statistics reports, currently; Kenya has 31.9 Million internet users which represents 74.2% of the entire population. This represents growth from 29.8 Million users or 69% registered in the previous quarter.

Mobile data Internet subscriptions have created a fighting arena where telecommunication sector have to define its dominance by offering better mobile data deals and high internet speeds.


So how does this affect Pricing?

The pricing dynamics when it comes to digital goods changes a little to what we are used to in other commodities. For example, Kenya has very price sensitive people, goods with cheaper prices tend to move faster but I believe the same does not apply especially in telecommunication services.

Cheap means you are compromising on something e.g. Connection speed, connection quality, SMS, Voice etc.

Let’s look at what ksh 20 on Airtel’s ‘20 bob in mob’ vs. what you get on Safaricom.


An in-depth look at this reveals several facts, Airtel seems to offer a nice deal by offering free Facebook and WhatsApp when your bundles run out, this being partnership with the social network Facebook on their initiative, which honestly doesn’t give you the cool experience you get when using data.

Safaricom on the other hand has more relevant offers; if you reach your daily target (i.e. exhaust 35 ksh) you get 100% bonus airtime valid until midnight daily. The bonus airtime can be used for Safaricom to Safaricom Voice calls and SMS.

So the question is, what we really need with disregard to pricing, more talk time and bundles or free Facebook and WhatsApp. Whatever answer you pick you already know which network is best for you


Airtel’s 3G download speed is at 1.5 mbs/s while Safaricom 3G download speed is at 2.3 mbs/s. This means Safaricom passes 40% more data in one second faster than Airtel hence higher download speed.

This makes Airtel good for light surfing whereas Safaricom is noble if you are doing dense lifting on the internet. When you need to accomplish things fast and in time then Safaricom is your best choice.  How does Safaricom and Airtel fair in different regions in Kenya.

At different geographical location Airtel’s networks is not as efficient as Safaricom.


According to the pie charts, Safaricom has better network coverage compared to Airtel.

Safaricom network coverage with HSPA+ (4G) is more than Airtel at 61% to 52% respectively. HSPA (3G) covers a bigger region on Airtel than Safaricom 30% to 18% respectively.


In addition to this, safaricom just introduced a pack of new products which include the safaricom guarantee, Data manager and my subscription manager.

The three, unveiled under a campaign dubbed keep the connections going are aimed to give subscribers power to manage their data,sms and call minutes, as they also enjoy one minute refund on any call disconnected due to network faults.


Airtel offers a cheaper alternative to what Safaricom gives but at bigger compromise on efficiency, when I assign a value to efficiency then the table flips and suddenly Safaricom doesn’t seem that expensive.

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