In the past, we highlighted the legal tussles Kenya’s second largest operator, Airtel, and ICT regulator, the Communications Authority (CA). The issue in question was centred on the renewal of the telco’s operating permit, and disagreements forced both institutions to High Court.
As a recap, back in 2013, Airtel Kenya requested CA to match its license renewal fees on its annual gross turnover because it continues to be a small player in the telecoms business. Thus, it was not in a position to pay KES 2.06 billion in order to stay in business. This was against CA’s rules that call for fixed fees. Contrastingly, Safaricom paid KES 2.3 billion for the same permit.
At the same time, Airtel argued that the telco had promised to combine its license fees with Yu’s acquisition back in 2014. Furthermore, the troubled operator claimed its existing license should last until 2025 after paying KES 718 million in 2014, which complicates the matter with CA’s demands for an additional KES 2.06 billion.
On the bright side of things, the High Court has instructed the CA to back off from the matter. In essence, the court determined that the regulator dishonoured prior agreements especially in regard to Yu’s acquisition. Had Airtel known the CA would change its stand, the Yu deal would have been abandoned.
Speaking during the ruling, Justice Odunga maintained that the ICT watchdog abused its powers by compelling Airtel to pay fees that were not agreed upon in the first place. Additional variables include corruption cases, where it is rumoured that Airtel did not meet its monetary side of the deal for a favourable decision by some board members of the CA.