The telecommunications sector regulator has defended itself against claims made by Airtel accusing it of favoring Safaricom on issuance of 4G frequency spectrum and dragging its feet on enforcement of market dominance rules. The Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) director general Francis Wangusi said he was not aware of any difficulties that Airtel had faced with the frequency spectrum (800Mhz) that it was allocated to test-pilot its 4G network. He also said that Airtel should not blame the regulatory environment “for inability” to keep up with the competition.
The ICT Secretary Fred Matiang’i said Airtel should instead seek solutions to any challenges facing it from the right offices, “instead of engagement from the streets.” Airtel threatened to exit the Kenyan market if new regulations are not passed to curb Safaricom dominance. “We have spectrum in the 1800Mhz and we have even offered to give Airtel the spectrum to rollout the network on a pilot basis. They want us to give them the spectrum frequency for free, which is not possible,” said Mr Wangusi in Nairobi . “So if they go to the streets to talk about spectrum, we (the regulator) don’t know if they have any problem on the frequency.”
Airtel took issue with a recent notice by the regulator indicating that Safaricom will be given a licence to roll out high-speed (4G) Internet countrywide.The notice was published on August 19 and gives stakeholders a month to submit their objections, if any. Airtel said giving Safaricom the 4G permit ahead of other telecommunication would “tie” consumers to one service provider. “We do not agree with the way the valuable 800HZ spectrum was allocated to the dominant player to deploy the 4G network without a clear agreement with other players on commercial terms,” Airtel’s chief executive Adil El Youssefi said in a media interview .
Mr Wangusi also defended the regulator from claims that the regulatory environment is tilted in favour of Safaricom, saying that if Airtel wants to exit the market they are free to do so but should not blame it on the regulatory environment.