The Communication Authority of Kenya (CA), which is in charge of regulatory policing for the ICT sector in the country is under scrutiny after awarding Jamii Telecoms Limited, popularly referred to as JTL, a KES 2.5 billion mobile phone service license. Similar to Wananchi Group, JTL is a tier 2 telecommunication company that is known for operating Faiba, and this makes the circumstances surrounding the licensing questionable.
JTL license is for the 700 MHz frequency that comes second to the 800 MHz in terms of digital dividends. While the freeing of the 800 MHz spectrum was availed to tier 1 companies (Safaricom, Airtel Kenya and Telkom Kenya) at a cost of KES 7.5 billion (each paid KES 2.5 billion), JTL paid KES 10000 for its 700 MHz license.
According to the Daily Nation, other telcos have forwarded their complaints to the ICT watchdog’s director-general, Mr. Francis Wagusi in a bid to understand why JTL paid a paltry amount for a share of the country’s limited resource.
On the side of things, tier 2 operators are supposed to pay KES 100000 for an operating license when tier 1 telcos paid an initial fee of more than KES 2.5 billion each for the same license. The controversy manifests itself in the sense that the 700 MHz spectrum licensed to JTL enables the company to offer broadband and data solutions at elevated speeds, but on a relatively low cost. At the same time, 700 MHz is functionally robust and efficient than what is currently is use.
This award is being termed as a ‘trial’, which was the same thing the authority said when it split the 800 MHz frequency to pocket substantial revenue from tier 1 companies. As such, competitors are expressing their dissatisfaction based on JTL’s ‘preferential’ treatment that shields the tier 2 telco from similar terms and conditions in regard to roll out charges and obligations.
The license gives JTL the mandate to run mobile phone services on a prefix 0747.
It should be noted that this is not the first time the authority has been under scrutiny. At one time, it gave Safaricom exclusive rights for the 800 MHz band, and an outcry forced a split to accommodate other players.