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Hope for lower 3G fees in Kenya

NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 4 – The government has hinted at the possibility of reviewing the licensing fee for 3G services.

Information Permanent Secretary Dr Bitange Ndemo said the government is intent on ensuring a competitive environment for all telecommunication providers which in turn would ensure the deployment of technology to most Kenyans.

“We will do everything possible to ensure that we have created the necessary competitive environment, even if it means that we revise the cost to reasonable levels,” he said adding that the decision would be made in the next three weeks.

Last year Zain Kenya, Essar Telecom and Telkom Kenya petitioned the Communications Commission of Kenya to review the Sh1.9 billion spectrum cost in order to facilitate them to launch the service as well.

The move however did not go down well with Safaricom which paid the fee in 2007 and heralded the provision of enhanced voice and high speed data services. Dr Ndemo however assured that if the government lowers the charges, it would put in place provisions to ensure that Safaricom is compensated.

“If we decide that we are lowering, we would have some mechanisms to ensure that (Safaricom does not lose its money),” he assured.

The PS however said the government was keen on ensuring not only the creation of a level playing field but an environment where Kenyans get access to quality and affordable technology.

“We are very sensitive that Kenyans are paying more than other parts of the world and that is why we are sorting this out shortly. For us the bottom line is the ‘mwananchi’,” he stressed.

The roll-out of the 3G technology would for example come in handy in the government’s efforts to increase ICT usage in the country.

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 “We need to use 3G especially for learning because some of the products that we are thinking about are school-based learning and 3G would do the best because it is robust in terms of data,” he explained.

The decision is likely to be contained in the report on the guidelines which were commissioned to review the interconnection charges and which are expected to be implemented in March.

It is also widely expected that the new framework will outline how the CCK will intervene and regulate internet prices.

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