Call firm GeoNet loses fight against Safaricom, regulator


Smartphone with logo of Kenyan mobile network operator Safaricom PLC. PHOTO | SHUTTERSTOCK

Long-distance telecommunications service provider GeoNet Communications has lost an application seeking to review a decision dismissing its case by the Multimedia Appeals Tribunal in a long-running dispute over interconnection with Safaricom.

Justice David Majanja dismissed the application by the company saying it was trying to re-argue and re-litigate its appeal, “in the hope that the court would reach a different factual and legal position."

The firm, a subsidiary of GeoNet Communications Group based in the US, moved to the High Court accusing the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) of promoting anti-competitive behaviour by failing to intervene in its dispute with Safaricom and Telkom over the interconnection dispute.

The firm’s appeal before the Tribunal was dismissed last year, forcing the company to rush to the High Court, arguing that it proceeded on an incorrect exposition of the law, misconstrued the subject regulations and therefore reached erroneous conclusions. 

In the appeal, Geonet claimed that the Tribunal was not properly constituted when it rendered the judgment as it did not have the technical expertise required for the subject matter.

The firm alleged that a technical expert in telecommunications was not in office at the time of writing the judgment and the decision was, therefore, made without the technical expertise and competence necessary to analyse its technology.

The company has maintained that it does not use physical SIM Cards yet, and the CA and Tribunal proceeded to hold that it was guilty of SIM Boxing.

According to GeoNet, it does not use calling cards but uses a mobile application named “GeoSafari App” that relies on Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and runs on Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) mode of call handling.

The company says GeoSafari App does not utilise any SIM Cards and it is illogical to hold that they are guilty of SIM Boxing, a practice which, by definition requires physical SIM Cards.

Further, having been granted licenses for telecommunications services in Kenya, after necessary vetting and approval, the firm says it had a legitimate expectation that CA would not declare the same technology as violating the law.

The firm said the app is an innovative, efficient and economical way of providing Kenyan consumer services that enables them to cut costs (especially roaming costs) and save them money.

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