Cable cuts force Safaricom to delay upgrade

November 12, 2010

, NAIROBI, Kenya Nov 12 – Safaricom was on Thursday forced to delay its planned upgrade of the money transfer service, M-PESA, that was scheduled to start on Friday evening to Monday morning.

The delay was caused by the latest spate of cuts to Safaricom’s fibre optic network that has led to major disruptions of the firm’s operations.

In a statement, Safaricom Chief Executive Officer Bob Collymore said the upgrade of the money transfer system would require a stable network that could not be guaranteed during the period.

“However, we wish to assure our customers that normal services will be available and we will soon announce a new timetable for the upgrade,” Mr Collymore said on Thursday.

He has raised the red flag over the cuts alluding to the fact that it was sabotage to disrupt the operator’s business.

Over the past weeks, Safaricom subscribers have been thrown off the network following a series of fibre cable cuts, although Mr Collymore could not quantify how much the mobile operator had lost in down time.

The Ministry of Information and Communication has said it will seek an amendment to the law to place fibre optic vandalism under the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Act where offenders could face life imprisonment if convicted and a fine of Sh1 million to deter the cuts.

The law is set to be in place by the end of the year.

Introduced into the market in 2007, M-PESA has gained popularity in the market with 13.5 million customers registered with Sh37.7 billion being moved daily in person-to-person transfer. In May, the M-Kesho service was launched in partnership with Equity Bank with the aim of deepening financial access of M-PESA customers. M-Kesho so far has over 613,000 customers registered in the first five months.

The upgrade of the M-PESA system intends to make it more efficient as well as introduce a host of new features such as phonebook searches.

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