Online payments services firm JamboPay has been granted a licence to operate a virtual mobile phone service in Kenya, joining a field controlled by heavy weights such as Safaricom and Airtel.

This marks a huge milestone for the firm which has travelled a long but rewarding innovation journey since it was founded in Kenya in 2009.

JamboPay parent firm, Web Tribe Limited said it has received a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) licence from the telecoms regulator Communications Authority of Kenya (CA).

With the permit, JamboPay is now able to lease spectrum from mobile network operators and roll out mobile services. The firm has been mainly offering online payment services.

JamboPay chief executive Danson Muchemo noted that the firm is conducting a pilot before launching commercial services initially in Nairobi later this year.

The firm will set off by offering services such as smart communications networks which will enable Kenyans to monitor their water and electricity meter services and pay for the bills as well as track their vehicles.

Mucheni said the firm will leverage on latest technologies such as Internet of Things (IoT) to give its customers top services.

IoT is increasingly being adopted in Africa in various fields such as smart homes, mobile payments and smart cities.

Following the approval, JamboPay plans to pump Sh300 million to revamp its services in sectors such as public transport and the energy.

“We will make available the IoT network to innovators, applications developers and device manufacturers,” said Mr Muchemi noted.

“We are running a limited pilot in parts of Nairobi. Commercial rollout will be last half of this year.”

Carol Wanyeki, JamboPay head of IoT, said the firm will immediately focus on machine-to-machine services.

The entry of JamboPay into the mobile services realm will put them in direct competition with players like Safaricom which also are also eyeing deployment of IoT to deliver smart water metering and animal tracking systems.

Safaricom’s new IoT network will tap into the firm’s existing 4G network and targets energy, water and power firms that use smart meters.

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.