Major telcos to share 4G frequencies with smaller firms


Communications Authority director-general Francis Wangusi. PHOTO | FILE

Safaricom, Airtel and Telkom Kenya will be compelled to share their 4G frequency spectrum with smaller telcos once allocated licences for commercial rollout of the technology.

The Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) director-general Francis Wangusi said the regulator was waiting for a new board to get the nod to issue the three with permits.

Mr Wangusi said the sharing requirement will be contained in the 4G licensing conditions.

The move is aimed at giving smaller operators such as mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) and tier-two infrastructure providers such as Liquid Telecoms, Jamii and Wananchi Group access to the limited resource at a lower fee.

“The authority is going to issue the three mobile operators with 4G licences to enable them start using the frequencies on commercial basis,” Mr Wangusi told the Business Daily in an interview on the sides of Connected Kenya Summit in Kwale County.

He added that the need to force the three telcos to share their capacity is aimed at boosting competition and increasing Internet accessibility in the country.  

The 4G frequencies enable the telcos to offer high speed Internet to mobile phone customers as well as broadband-based TV broadcasts.

READ: Airtel, Telkom win in 4G frequency spat with Safaricom

The CA was disbanded on February 5 following Attorney- General Githu Muigai’s advice to withdraw an appeal challenging High Court orders sending the team home.

The CA chairman Ben Gituku was however not affected in the disbandment. Mr Wangusi said the approval of the allocation of 4G spectrum frequencies can only be done by the board.

Safaricom, Airtel and Telkom will be allocated equal share of the preferred 800MHz frequencies.

The allocation was made possible following a  resolution arrived at the Geneva Radio World Conference in mid-December where African countries agreed to allocate mobile telecommunication firms additional frequencies freed-up after migration from analogue to digital TV broadcast.

At the moment, only Safaricom has been allocated some share of frequency on this band which it has used to rollout its 4G network in Nairobi and Mombasa.

The allocation to Safaricom prompted protests from Airtel and Telkom which said they did not agree with the criteria followed to issue the telco what they termed as the best 4G spectrum.

The 800 MHz band, according to Airtel, enables an operator to roll out 4G services at a lower cost because it provides good network coverage with fewer radio infrastructure (radio base stations ) than the 1800 MHz, the other broadband spectrum.

The CA boss said the regulator is yet to come up with the pricing methodology and could therefore not say how much the operators will pay for the 4G frequency spectrum.

Previously, the CA had given tentative figures showing Safaricom will have to pay a licence fee of $56.25 million (about Sh5.6 billion) before it is issued with the 800MHz frequencies.