The communications Authority has denied allegations that it irregularly awarded Jamii a mobile service license. The deal saw Jamii Telecom earn a coveted mobile service spectrum and a license to provide mobile services.
In a hastily organized media briefing, CA refused to take any questions and claimed that the deal was above board, denying that it could potentially cost taxpayers billions of shillings in unpaid license fees.
“Contrary to what appeared in the media today, the Authority wishes to clarify that no money has been lost in the authorization given to Jamii Telecom,” said CA chairman Ngene Gituku.
The board chair, however, confirmed that Jamii Telecom had in September last year been granted a trial license to offer mobile phone services. It is this trial license on the 700mhz spectrum that is causing friction between the rest of the industry and the regulator. Other telecom operators are currently offering 4G Internet services on the 800 Megahertz spectrum. The 700 MHZ spectrum gives operators better coverage, meaning they can reach further without having to invest as much in the density of their network.
CA had previously promised to auction the spectrum to all industry players who are now voicing their concern on the promise which cannot be executed if Jamii is given the spectrum.
In addition, they’ve raised concerns that Jamii Telecom did not pay the Sh2.5 billion ($25 million) fee as required by the law.
“We don’t understand how the best quality spectrum could be allocated in a process that hasn’t been shared with the operators,” said Safaricom chief executive Bob Collymore on Wednesday.
On its part, Jamii Telecom, strongly defended itself saying that it had followed all CA processes in applying for the license and claiming that its mode of entry to the mobile services market is clean.
“We are very determined to make sure we penetrate this market. We want to make sure Kenyans have choices in terms of accessing telecommunications services. And you cannot have that if a few operators are dominating the market,” said Mr. Chepkwony, chairman, Jamii Telecom.
The company also pointed out that other players have tried new frequencies without paying license fees and said that it was planning to pay up the Sh2.5 billion at the end of the trial period in compliance with its agreement with the CA.
Market leader Safaricom didn’t pay its 4G spectrum license fee until January this year although it had piloted services on the band for months. Airtel and Telkom Kenya were also given 4G spectrum on a pilot basis although neither have launched 4G services.
Jamii Telecom said that it was planning to launch commercial trials this quarter and has already invested Sh5.1 billion ($50 million) in its network infrastructure. Once commercial, Jamii will focus on offering data services.