Airtel Kenya has demanded a share of the 4G broadband spectrum allocated to Safaricom by the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA), arguing that it is unfair for the regulator to allow the dominant telecommunications operator to launch the high-speed Internet service ahead of its competitors.
The CA, in a gazette notice published on August 19, has said that it intends to issue Safaricom with a licence to operate on the 800HZ frequency, the technical definition for the high-speed (4G) Internet spectrum.
The licence could enable Safaricom to offer high-speed Internet to its customers, as well as broadband-based TV broadcasts.
The CA has said that any objection to the intended move should be filed at its headquarters within 30 days from the date of publication of the notice.
Airtel Kenya CEO Adil El Youssefi said in an interview Wednesday that his company did not agree with the process that was followed in allocating what it termed as the best 4G spectrum to Safaricom, arguing it would entrench the company’s dominant position in the telecommunications sector.
“There is no (4G) sharing agreement yet, which is a great concern for us and our position is that Safaricom should not be allowed to launch commercial services in the 800 MHz spectrum band before the sharing agreement is approved by the regulators and signed with the other operators,” Mr Adil said in response to the Business Daily queries.
Telkom Kenya said in a statement that it would ask the industry regulator “to advise on the mechanisms to be used to allocate (these) frequencies to all players in the market.
“We firmly believe that all players in the sector should be accorded equally opportunity as we have each heavily invested in this market,” said Telkom Kenya.
Airtel holds that Safaricom should not be allowed use the 800MHz to commercially rollout the 4G network before an agreement by other operators who also plan to launch a similar joint platform is signed.
The proposed allocation of the licence follows the expiry of a three-month trial period window offered to Safaricom by the CA on February 9, 2015, which allowed it to launch its 4G network in some parts of Nairobi and Mombasa.
The 800 MHz band, according to Airtel, enables an operator to roll out 4G services in a less costly manner because it provides good network coverage with fewer radio infrastructure (radio base stations ) than the 1800 MHz, the other broadband spectrum.
It also provides better indoor coverage than the 1800 MHz band, said Airtel.
Sharing the spectrum, Airtel says, enables each operator to control their own quality of services instead of buying wholesale from other operators, in which case a telecommunications operator has to rely on the quality of service of a competitor.
CA director-general Francis Wangusi said that the allocation of the frequency licence was tied to the National Police Security Project issued to Safaricom and that the leading mobile operator will have to pay a license fee of $56.25 million (about Sh5.6 billion) before it is issued with the 8OOMHz frequencies.