Safaricom prepares for battle, sets date for new Mpesa network


The stage is set for deployment of the long-awaited Safaricom’s new M-Pesa system, raising stakes in the ongoing battle between the mobile phone service provider and a slew of new entrants in the mobile money transfer business led by Equity Bank.

The new system to be launched next year and hosted locally is expected to help Safaricom maintain its grip on the lucrative mobile money market which saw Sh2 trillion shillings transacted in the country last year.

“We have been working on a new upgraded version of M-Pesa for three years now and have already undertaken software and hardware upgrades,” Safaricom’s Chief Executive Officer Bob Collymore disclosed yesterday.

“Right now we are in the testing phase and we are seeing very positive and promising results which will take about six months before we can launch,” he added.

Mr Collymore was speaking at Safaricom’s sixth Annual General Meeting where shareholders approved the firm’s acquisition of the network infrastructure, frequency spectrum and assets of Essar Telcom’s yuMobile in a deal estimated at Sh6.9 billion.

The new M-Pesa system is expected to allow the mobile service provider introduce new services at the same time increase its integration with partners such as banks and utility companies.

“We have heard users complain about downtimes and delays particularly around the Christmas season where the system handles about 320 transactions per second,” said Mr Collymore.

Customer- base

The new system is running on second-generation hardware and software and is able to take 600 transactions per second.

Equity Bank, Kenya’s largest bank by customer-base earlier this year unveiled a strategy for launching its own Virtual Mobile Money Network, setting the stage for intense competition between the bank and Safaricom.

Last week Parliament suspended the roll-out of Equity’s Mobile Virtual Network pending the determination of security concerns around the thin-sim technology to be used.

Safaricom had raised concerns that the thin-sim technology was insecure and could expose subscribers to fraud and hacking, eroding the gains made in mobile money transfer in the country.

According to Nicholas Nganga, chairman of Safaricom’s board of directors, the concerns raised by Safaricom needed to be cleared.

“We are not scared of competition and the feeling that we are at war with anyone is misplaced,” he said.