Court bars CA from punishing US firm GeoNet over licence fee

Communications Authority of Kenya

The Communications Authority of Kenya headquarters in Nairobi. FILE PHOTO | NMG

A judge has barred the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) from taking any action against a US-based Kenyan telecommunications firm over unpaid licence fees amounting to Sh12 million.

High Court judge Lawrence Mugambi stopped the regulator from taking any action against GeoNet Communications Ltd, pending the determination of a case filed by the company.

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The firm has accused CA director-general Ezra Chiloba of failure to comply with a decision issued by the court in April on interconnection services.

The court had directed the CA to respond to concerns on interconnection and double billing issues raised by GeoNet against Safaricom and Telkom Kenya within 60 days, which lapsed on June 6.

In the petition, GeoNet had accused CA of promoting anticompetitive behaviour by failing to intervene in its dispute with the two telcos.

“The Director General’s conduct is deliberate and this honourable court should punish the Director General as he is responsible for carrying out orders of the court issued against the respondent,” the firm said in the application.

GeoNet’s Director Hassan Mdachi says the directive has not been complied with and they are on the brink of losing an investment worth Sh21 billion due to CA’s inaction.

He said the company made an interconnection request to Safaricom on April 6, as directed by the court but the giant telcos allegedly said it was unwilling to enter interconnection with GeoNet.

“Considering that the applicant had made an interconnection request and it had been denied by the 1st respondent, the applicant requested the respondent to grant interconnection to the applicant based on Regulation 5(11)(b)as per the judgment of the court,” Mr Mdachi said.

Mr Mdachi said Mr Chiloba did not respond but instead wrote to the firm on May 25 requesting detailed information regarding their subscribers.

GeoNet had moved to court on July 15 last year accusing CA of remaining silent despite writing to it on diverse dates to complain about Safaricom locking it out of interconnection services and Telkom Kenya double billing it for this service.

The firm’s roaming services are dependent upon it being interconnected with local mobile operators such as Safaricom and Telkom.

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GeoNet had on June 27, 2020, written to CA asking it to compel Safaricom to reinstate interconnection with it on “reasonable terms” to continue with the roaming service.

The case will be mentioned on June 26 for directions.

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