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How to Upgrade your Airtel Kenya SIM Card to 4G

Airtel 4G is finally here. As it’s to be expected with this development, it’s that time again for you to upgrade your old Airtel SIM card with one that is 4G capable. You’ll also need a 4G capable smartphone which should be able to connect to Airtel’s 4G network.

Don’t worry though, if your 4G enabled device can connect to Safaricom’s or Telkom’s 4G networks it should work with Airtel’s network. That’s because Airtel 4G network is running on the 20 (800MHZ) Band which is what those two aforementioned networks are using as well.

Ordinarily upgrading or changing your SIM card requires you to visit an Airtel shop and have the customer care do this for you. However, Airtel has this time round made things much easier for us (and for themselves too) by making it possible for us to upgrade our SIM cards on our own.

They call it self SIM Swap and true to that word, you’ll be able to swap your old sim card by yourself  in just a couple of minutes. As a welcome bonus, Airtel is giving out a whooping free 2GB data bundle valid for one week if you upgrade to 4G. I don’t think this will last forever, but at the time of this writing the offer is still active.

Upgrade to a 4G SIM

First things first you need to buy the new self-swap 4G SIM card that is available from various retailers and hawkers countrywide. This should set you back not more than Ksh.100. Armed with the new SIM card, follow the following steps:

1. Dial *100# with your current SIM card and from the USSD menu enter 3 for Manage My Account.

manage my account
Manage my Account

2. In the next menu enter 2 for Sim Upgrade 4G/Nano/Micro.

sim upgrade
SIM Upgrade

3. Next enter 1 for Self SIM SWAP.

self sim swap
Self SIM Swap

4. You’ll now be prompted now to enter the 19-digit Serial Number of the new 4G SIM card.

enter serial number
Enter Serial Number

This serial number is the one on the SIM card itself as shown below:

serial number
The 19-Digit Serial No.

5. If you dialled the code correctly you should get a prompt that the SIM swap request has been sent successfully.

swap request
Swap Request Sent

6. You will also receive the following SMS messages from 12345 confirming the swap is in process.

swap message
Swap in Process

7. Now just remove the old SIM Card from your phone and put in the new 4G SIM card.

8. The new SIM card will receive the Airtel 4G network in a few minutes and disappear from your old SIM card.

swap success
SIM Swap Success

You’ll should then receive the above SMS message informing you of a successful swap.

Activating your Free 2GB Data

1. To get your free 2GB data, just dial *544*6# and you should receive a prompt that the request has been sent successfully.

2. Wait a couple of seconds and you should receive a text message from Airtel with the confirmation of the 2GB data.

2GB data
2GB Data Received

3. As usual, to check the data bundle balance just dial *544*3#.

Refused to Swap?

It seems the swapping may not be possible for all SIM cards. Case in point is my modem SIM card which was denied the request to swap because apparently you cannot swap a SIM card whose number has the 075, 0782 or 0785 prefixes. This is the exact message I got after I sent the 19-digit serial with my 0750 SIM card:

sim swap declined
SIM Swap Declined

I suppose for such SIM cards we may have to brave the long queues in Airtel Shops.

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Kelvin Kathia

Kelvin Kathia is the editor of Kenyan Fix, an informational blog that helps Kenyans with solutions to everyday questions on mobile networks, government services and banking.