NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 12 – Kenya’s top telecommunications firm Safaricom has welcomed proposals for mobile number portability but is urging caution.
Chief Executive Michael Joseph said on Wednesday that the exercise calls for massive infrastructure upgrading for it to allow seamless connectivity between networks.
He says the costs of upgrading the systems would be passed on to the consumer, thereby increasing call tariffs.
Mobile number portability enables mobile telephone users to retain their numbers when changing from one mobile operator to another.
Comparing it to call divert, Mr Joseph said mobile companies would have to equip their networks for the number that is no longer on their network.
“We have to build our infrastructure to cater for those numbers and it’s expensive,” he said.
Citing examples from countries that have adopted number portability, Mr Joseph said substantial research has to be done to ensure the proposals will be of benefit to the subscribers.
“South Africa has implemented it (but) look at the lack of success; it is a complete failure.”
The proposals to have number portability a reality in Kenya is being mooted by the Communications Commission of Kenya which is in the process of formulating a framework to have the system ready by September.
At the same time Mr Joseph announced that there would be a delay in the activation of The East African marine System (TEAMS) fiber optic cable.
“At the moment TEAMS is undergoing final tests but we expect to go commercial in September,” he said.
Meanwhile, he acknowledged that Safaricom’s M-Pesa platform had experienced some hiccups in the last couple of days, and attributed it to congestion in the money transfer system that caused a backlog of transactions.
He however said the system could handle many more transactions than it is currently handling, but its complexity made it vulnerable to failure from time to time.
“The system is designed to carry out more than 100 transactions per second,” he boasted.
He encouraged subscribers not to lose faith in the system saying “the negatives should not be used to outweigh the benefits of M-pesa.”
He was speaking during the launch of the first solar-charged mobile phone into the Kenyan market, dubbed “Simu ya Solar”.
Simu ya Solar, which also comes with a conventional charger, will be retailing at all Safaricom shops and dealer channels countrywide at a price of Sh2,999 and with a one-year warranty.
Mr Joseph challenged companies to adopt policies that also ensure environmental conservation instead of constantly focusing on the bottom line of business.
“If we don’t focus our attention on environmental issues, it’s likely we also won’t be around in ten years time either, therefore it’s important for business to focus on environmental issues.”
Environment and Mineral Resources Minister John Michuki, who presided at the event, said sustainable companies would be those that do not just look at bottom line but also the impact of their activities on the environment in which they do business.
“Businesses will have to take due consideration of the environment and issues such as renewable energy, carbon dioxide emissions and climate change in order to remain sustainable,” he said.