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February 21, 2019

Safaricom to give up part of 4G frequency

GAVE IN: Communications Authority director-general Francis Wangusi at a conference in Nairobi on November 23.
GAVE IN: Communications Authority director-general Francis Wangusi at a conference in Nairobi on November 23.

SAFARICOM has been asked to surrender part of the 800MHz frequency spectrum for high speed internet to allow equal redistribution.

The Communication Authority yesterday said it has written to Safaricom to surrender five MHz from the 15MHz it was allocated, to allow Airtel and Telkom Kenya's Orange to be allocated equal share of the frequencies for rolling out high speed internet.

 Safaricom has already used the frequency to roll out the 4G network in Nairobi and Mombasa, prompting claims that the regulator was favouring Safaricom in spectrum allocation.

 According to CA director general Francis Wangusi, the regulator has 15 MHz pending and the surrender by Safaricom will avail 20MHz.

 “After discussions, we all agreed that the 800 MHz be channelised at two by 10 megahertz, which means the 30 MGZ that has been released, we can be able to get three slots. For fairness and parity, we need to equally distribute them to the three players,” Wangusi said.

 This will see each player get 10MHz bringing them to a level platform.

 “We have no business as a regulator in trying to favour anybody. Ours is to create a conducive environment for everybody to play and innovate,” Wangusi said.

 Airtel and Orange had protested the allocation of the 800MHz broadband frequencies to Safaricom, accusing the authority of disparity.

The high frequency according to Airtel, enables an operator to roll out 4G services with less cost, as it provides good network coverage with fewer radio infrastructure.

The authority has in the past defended the allocation of the frequency to Safaricom saying it was attached to the National Police Security Project.

“We are going to discuss with the government about the security network and see to it that the three players equally contribute to the security project,” Wangusi said.

 The CA boss said the regulator is also considering reducing the cost of the spectrum.

 Previously, the CA had given an indication of a license fee of $56.25 million (about Sh5.7 billion).

  The 4G frequencies also enable the telcos to offer broadband-based TV broadcasts.

He said the three will be compelled to share with tier two and other licensed players.

Airtel has since welcomed the move saying it is “in line with international best practice”.

 Wangusi was speaking at Safari park hotel during the national stakeholders’ workshop on child online protection in Kenya.


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