Kenya's top telecoms operator Safaricom will lay a fibre-optic cable network to offer faster and more efficient Internet data services in expectation of a mobile " data tsunami", its chief executive said.
Safaricom, in which Britain's Vodafone has a 40 percent stake, has a big lead over rivals such as the local unit of France Telecom, but its network has been struggling with fluctuating data speeds and dropped calls.
"The next set of investments is going to be around fibre because we have major dependency on fibre," Bob Collymore told the Reuters Africa Investment Summit.
"The data tsunami will come and it will come maybe 12 months or 18 months from now," he said.
Safaricom expects a surge in demand for data services in the east African nation of 40 million people, thanks to an explosion of Internet-ready, hand-held devices, an increase in the number of relevant applications and content.
It also sees Kenya positioned as a possible information technology hub for the entire continent.
Speaking at the Reuters office in Nairobi, Collymore said the move would improve the firm's services as it will result in the replacement of old cables and those that have been spliced during road construction.
It will take two to three years and involve partnerships with other operators, Collymore said.
"The industry needs to work on sharing infrastructure. We are looking at what would be a sensible model for us so we can do it twice as quickly and at half the cost," he said.
Collymore said Safaricom was also seeking new opportunities for its pioneer mobile phone-based money transfer service, M-Pesa. Started in 2007, it now handles millions of dollars a day in transactions.
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