The Computer Society of Kenya

Since 1986


Tuesday February 02, 2021

Heading home from work late, and you’re not sure whether there is a packet of milk in the refrigerator? You may soon find it easy to communicate with your fridge, TV, water and electricity meters and other household gadgets, as the race to roll out internet of things (IoT) gathers pace in Kenya.   

JamboPay, which is better known for having launched Nairobi’s first mobile phone-based car parking payment service, has obtained a regulatory license to roll out mobile phone services in Kenya and also connect up to one million machines through the IoT technology.

JamboPay’s parent company, Web Tribe Limited, has been awarded a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) license by the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA), effectively allowing it to lease spectrum from mobile network operators and roll out communications services.

Pilot tests

The firm, which has created a niche for itself in the online payment services sector, says it is conducting pilot tests ahead of rolling out several commercial services in Nairobi later this year and subsequently to other parts of the country.

Its services will include smart communications networks that will enable Kenyans to monitor their water and electricity meters and pay for the bills as well as track their vehicles.

"We intend to utilise the MVNO licence to provide additional services to our client base. The services will include internet of things services,” said the JamboPay Chief Executive Officer Danson Muchemi.

JamboPay’s new licence puts it in competition with Kenya’s biggest telecommunications operator, Safaricom, which has also made public plans to utilise its 4G internet to provide IoT services.

Internet of things

The emerging global market for “internet of things,” the concept of connecting household devices to the internet, has been chiefly used for vehicle tracking, mobile payments and building of smart cities.

Mr Muchemi told the Nation that the firm will invest Sh300 million to launch a range of services including mobile payments in the public transport and energy sectors.

South Africa, the continent’s most advanced economy, has been the leader in rolling out internet-connected devices, with the latest project being smart meters for a power utility in the country’s biggest city, Johannesburg.

"We will make available the IoT network to innovators, applications developers and device manufacturers," said Mr Muchemi Monday.

Safaricom has also previously announced plans to launch IoT technology to deliver smart water and energy metering and animal tracking services.

Businesses can also use IoT to manage their fleet of vehicles.

Safaricom spent Sh17 billion on infrastructure to increase its network coverage and accelerate broadband and fibre deployment in the first half of the financial year 2019/2020.

Newest MVNO licence holder

JamboPay, which says it has 1.2 million customers, becomes the newest MVNO licence holder in Kenya.

The other MVNO operators include Kenya Airways, Tangaza Money, Zioncell and Equity Bank.

Equity Bank operates its MVNO arm through its subsidiary Finserve Africa, which leases capacity from mobile network operator Airtel Kenya, after getting the license from the regulator in 2014. 

JamboPay’s licence allows the firm to offer mobile payments services like Safaricom's M-Pesa and Airtel's Airtel Money.

Carol Wanyeki, head of internet of things at JamboPay, Monday said the firm will immediately focus on machine-to-machine services.

"For the services, there is smart homes, tracking, sensors," she told the Nation.

Global surge in demand

 The emerging global market for “internet of things”, the concept of connecting household devices to the internet, was expected to nearly triple to USD1.7 trillion by 2020, research firm International Data Corp projected in 2019.

There has been a global surge in demand for using the internet to get products from cars and fridges.

Other African countries are also adopting initiatives quickly, with nations like Rwanda using SIM cards to connect point of sale terminals in remote areas, enabling merchants to accept credit or debit card payments.

Technology firms including Intel Corp, Cisco Systems, Samsung Electronics and telecom giants Safaricom's parent firm Vodafone and Verizon are betting heavily on internet device-connected homes for future revenue and profit.

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