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MPESA moved Sh27b in January

NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 15 – Telecommunications operator Safaricom has continued to register success in its money transfer service, M-PESA, with close to Sh30 billion transferred from person to person in January alone.

Chief Commercial Officer Peter Arina said the number of registered M-PESA users which was launched in March 2007 is also on the rise.

“As we speak today, we have just over 8.8 million subscribers on M-PESA transferring last month over Sh27 billion in peer-to-peer money transfer,” he said.

Launched as a value-added service, M-PESA’s popularity has been on the rise contributing 17 percent of Safaricom’s revenues.  In its 2009 first half-year results, money moved on this platform helped drive data revenues which were up by 93.6 percent to Sh7.2 billion.

Speaking during a media workshop, Mr Arina attributed the firm’s success to the high investments that they have made in both the development of innovative services and infrastructure.

He said the company has invested Sh7.5 billion in data technology in the last three months as the company positions itself to become a big data player in the market.

“We have over 580 3G sites all over Kenya.  In addition, we have invested in wireless broadband where we have in the last three months alone put over 100 WiMAX stations across the country,” he added while indicating that this was more than the sites for the top three Internet Service Providers combined.

While it expects income from voice to fall due to increased competition in the market, the company projects the data segment to contribute about 25 percent of its revenues in the next three years.

At the same time, Mr Arina maintained that internet prices have come down contrary to some reports.

The CCO explained that currently, corporates are paying approximately Sh56,000 for one megabyte of bandwidth down from the Sh262,500 ($3,500) that they used to pay for the same capacity two years ago.  He expressed confidence that the cost of connectivity would tumble in coming months.

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“In a very short period of time, you will see that the price of internet and data will go down significantly.  All I can say is that watch the space,” he said.

However despite such assertions, many internet users still find internet costs prohibitive.

Information Permanent Secretary Dr Bitange Ndemo has been the biggest critic of telecommunications providers for their failure to bring down the prices despite availability of the more reliable and faster fibre optic technologies.

He has not only accused the operators of colluding to keep the prices up but threatened that the government would impose price controls to ensure that the majority of Kenyans have access to affordable and quality broadband.

The PS has however promised Kenyans that they can expect to see major changes in that front before April as the government intervenes.

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