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CA to hit telcos with tougher fines for poor quality services

CA chairman Ngene Gituku at the launch of a new monitoring system in Nairobi August
CA chairman Ngene Gituku at the launch of a new monitoring system in Nairobi August 30, 2018. --DIANA NGILA 

The Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) is eyeing imposition of steeper penalties on telecommunication operators that offer poor quality voice, data and messaging services.

The regulator made the announcement yesterday as it unveiled a new monitoring system, procured at a cost of Sh400 million, that will track network performance and customer experience.

The move means that the CA will soon impose steeper fines on offending telcos when they cause disruption to consumers, noting that current penalties were too lenient.

“We are going to recall our regulations before the end of the year so we review,” said director-general Francis Wangusi.

“The (current) penalty could be very low and therefore they don’t feel the pinch.”

The CA levies a fine equal to 0.1 per cent the gross annual revenue of a firm for failing to meet these standards.

The quality of voice services offered by mobile operators Safaricom, Airtel and Telkom Kenya worsened in 2016, setting up the operators for a hefty fine.

Telcos were last year collectively fined Sh311.6 million for poor services with market leader Safaricom taking the heaviest hit. The telco giant was fined Sh270 million while Airtel and Telkom were fined Sh26.6 million and Sh14.9 million respectively.

Mr Wangusi said the new system would analyse the rate of dropped calls, call connection time as well as voice and data quality.

He also allayed fears from a section of privacy lobbies that it could be used by the State to spy on Kenyans.

“I don’t think that the quality of service equipment is going to monitor what people are talking,” said Mr Wangusi.

“In any case 44 million Kenyans making so many trillions of calls when do we have the energy to be able to monitor all of them and for what purpose? That is not there.”

The new system was procured from French firm Rohde Schwarz through its local partner Broadband Communication Networks.

Before the adoption of 0.1 per cent of gross revenue rule, previously firms were fined a flat rate of Sh500,000 which the communications regulator at the time deemed too lenient.

The regulator also plans to install another software, the Device Management System, that would give it unfettered access to consumer data held by telcos. The plan, however, is in limbo after a court in April declared the move unconstitutional.

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