A few months ago, precisely April 24, Kenya’s Number 1 mobile operator Safaricom experienced a countrywide network outage that started at around 9 in the AM and lasted for an hour or so. The outage affected the network’s core services, including data, SMS, Enterprise services and most importantly, M-PESA. The company’s CEO Mr. Bob Collymore said that the root cause of the outage was based on the failure of two routers in one of their key data centers. For a telecoms company whose mobile phone subscriptions is at 72.6 percent and a gross turnover of KES 212 billion as of June 2017, it is clear why the outage crippled a significant amount of economic activities.
Kenya’s Communications Authority (CA) reported that it was going to investigate the matter and levy appropriate fines to the telco. Based on its gross turnover, any fault on Safaricom’s part meant it would pay up to KES 424 million in fines as it goes in line with CA’s 0.2 percent (of gross turnover) penalty on any operator’s negligence in delivering service. However, it turns out that Safaricom couldn’t have prevented the outage, which exonerates it from any form of liability. This means that the telco will not pay the said fees to cover for the hitch.
According to CA’s Director General Francis Wangusi, the ICT watchdog has decided to warn the telco for the moment. Usually, the CA is strict in matters regarding service provision and calls for 99.99 percent adherence. Failure to do so carries a fine of between KES 500,000 to 0.2 percent of their gross turnover depending on the damage. Were Safaricom’s hitch intentional or something they could have seen and mitigated, the CA could have slapped them with maximum penalty because the outage stretched for more than an hour, which is just too much.
Safaricom has since submitted their report to the CA and the Central Bank of Kenya for further scrutiny.