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Orange rolls out 3G in Kenya

NAIROBI, Kenya Dec 10 – Telkom Kenya on Thursday launched tests of its 3G technology on Orange GSM network around Nairobi.

Telkom Kenya Chief Executive Officer Mickael Ghossein told journalists that the tests would continue for one year, prior to obtaining the 3G licence from industry regulator, the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK).

Mr Ghossein said the tests had been deployed ahead of the launch of the firm’s new data solution service that would afford customers high-speed data connectivity.

“Today we have a lot of GSM operators worldwide operating 3G, why? From a technological point of view if you would like customers to take advantage of network outside Kenya then we need 3G,” Mr Ghossein explained.

The free testing of the service is aimed at getting CCK to lower its 3G licence fee currently pegged at $25 million (Sh1.9 billion). Even with the ongoing tests, Mr Ghossein maintains Telkom will not set up 3G services unless CCK lowers the licence price.

“I continue to say that $25 million is too much and if it does not come down, we stop the trial period and take up another decision,” he stated.

Telkom is not the only one calling for a reduction in the fee. Already several players in the market have expressed their desire to roll out 3G services but argue the spectrum cost is unfeasible.

Zain Kenya Managing Director Rene Meza has in the past said the high fees charged for the license was delaying their plans to introduce the service into the market.

Currently, only Safaricom has the 3G licence having acquired it in 2007 after paying the requisite Sh1.9 billion fee.

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Safaricom is opposed to the lowering of the fee saying that should the fee be reviewed downwards for one company, then the same should apply for them as well.

Mr Ghossein did however express optimism that CCK would consider the request and the company would be able to commercially roll out the service.

“We are optimistic CCK will grant our wish as the fee is out of reach for a growing network like ours and may ultimately deny Kenyans the full advantage of high speed data services,” he said.

And should CCK heed the calls by the mobile operator, Mr Ghossein is confident they can have 50 percent of the Kenyan population covered by 3G.

During the testing period, corporate customers would be able to enjoy their office internet platforms over the service even while away from the office.

“With business everywhere, corporate customers can surf and acess their office networks virtually from anywhere within Kenya and selected countries abroad,” he said.

The city centre, Mombasa Road up to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Milimani and Westlands will initially be covered by 3G during the testing period.

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