Takeover of Sh16bn Telkom-run fibre optic network stalls


Workers lay fibre-optic cable in Nyeri town on August 18, 2020. FILE PHOTO | NMG

The State is unable to take over the running of a government-owned fibre optic network worth Sh16 billion from Telkom Kenya due to a lack of budget for maintenance.

Katherine Getao, the ICT Authority (ICTA) chief executive, told the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that lack of cash to operate the National Optic Fibre Backbone (Nofbi) Phase 1 has stalled the takeover of the network from Telkom Kenya.

Telkom Kenya is currently operating Nofbi infrastructure—which provides telecommunications connectivity in all the 47 counties—without a licence.

“We are currently collecting levies from telcos that use Nofbi Phase 2 but we have not been able to obtain management contract for Phase 1 which is being operated by Telkom Kenya. We need money to enable us to take over and operate Nofbi 1 from Telkom,” Ms Getao told MPs. She said ICTA can only take over the internet infrastructure from Telkom if operation funds come from full commercialisation of Nofbi 1 or the Treasury allocate funds in the budget for maintenance.

The government does not pay for use of the infrastructure.

PAC chairman Opiyo Wandayi sought to know the progress of the planned takeover of the running of Nofbi infrastructure from Telkom Kenya at a meeting with Ms Getao and ICT Principal Secretary Jerome Ochieng’. “We continue sinking money in Telkom Kenya. They are making losses in the management of Nofbi which nobody has ascertained. What is the progress of government plan to take over this infrastructure?” Mr Wandayi asked. The government, through the ICT ministry, contracted Telkom Kenya in February 2010 to offer operations and management services for Nofbi.

In the deal, the telecoms firm was to undertake minor repairs on the network for a monthly payment of Sh20.3 million.

The contract was subsequently amended in 2013 but its effective date backdated to June 2011 to provide for a revenue share arrangement. The five-year contract expired in 2016, with ICT ministry yet to renew it.

Telkom Kenya chief executive Mugo Kibati confirmed that the firm had no permit to collect revenue from users of the Nofbi as required by law.