KENYA, MAY 10 —Telecommunication company-Safaricom has expressed dissatisfaction with the proposal to have telcos in the country share infrastructure to expand network coverage.
The Communication Authority of Kenya, relying on a study by telecoms global consulting and research firm- Analysys Mason, has proposed the use of Safaricom’s network by other players to carry their traffic at a fee.
According to CAK, shared infrastructure among local players will heighten competition by reducing costs of deploying new network while increasing coverage across the country.
The proposal is seeking to have Safaricom provide other Tier 1 mobile operators, which include Airtel Kenya and Telkom, access to its sites in seven designated counties.
These are Isiolo, Garissa, Mandera, Marsabit, Samburu, Turkana and Wajir counties where according to Analysys Mason , access should be provided on a “non-discriminatory basis and the regulated price apply for a minimum of five years at each individual site.”
The sector regulator, through the Ministry of Information and Communication has also been keen to address market dominance concerns raised by rival industry players who want Safaricom to be declared a dominant player.
Speaking during the 2018 full year financial results announcement, the Safaricom board of directors and management said the infrastructure sharing proposal was “retrogressive.”
“We do not agree with this. You cannot hold an investor to have others catch up,” Safaricom chairman Nicholas Ng’ang’a said during the investor briefing.
“You cannot take from those who have invested so that you assist those who have not invested. We want it to be understood that we have invested our investors’ money and customer spend. We cannot agree to be held back,” he added.
Board member and former Chief Executive Officer Michael Joseph(now Kenya Airways chairman), said the telecommunication sector in Kenya is liberal hence should be left to operate without interference.
“Infrastructure sharing is punishing those who have invested,” Joseph said, noting that operators should be left to negotiate sharing of facilities.
He also expressed concerns over price controls in the market which he said were retrogressive.
Safaricom invested about Ksh38 billion in infrastructure in the last financial year ended March 2018, which has helped increase its capacity especially on data and network coverage.
Safaricom has received the support of Telecommunication Service Providers Association of Kenya (Tespok) which has poked holes on the Analysys Mason study.
According to Tespok, the study did not consider factors such as security especially in areas where operators have to secure their equipment.
Shared facilities in such areas could lead to a complete downtime in case of an attack or destruction, the association notes.
Last year, the GSM Association-a global lobby for mobile operators-said compelling sector players to share infrastructure inhibits effective competition.
Under the Kenya Information and Communications Regulations 2016, the government sought to restrict the deployment of passive infrastructure unless there is no feasible option of co-location or where there is no option of infrastructure sharing with an existing infrastructure provider.
The CA has been counting on the Universal Service Fund, contributed by telecommunications companies and broadcasters at a rate of 0.5 per cent of their gross annual turnover, to bridge ICT gaps.
Enforced in 2013, the USF has accumulated to more than Ksh5.5 billion.
This year President Uhuru Kenyatta directed that the police(Directorate of Criminal Investigations) be given Sh1 billion from the kitty to intensify the fight on cyber crime.