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Zain Kenya happy with move on 3G licenses

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 18 – Zain Kenya has welcomed the decision by the government to review the licence fee for 3G services saying it will enable more Kenyans to experience the ongoing digital revolution.

Managing Director Rene Meza said the move to slash the charges from $25 million to $10 million is a step towards bridging the digital divide in the country and making Kenya the ICT hub in Africa.

“We would like to commend the government and the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) for taking the bold step of revising the upfront fee which was prohibitive and served as a barrier for other operators,” he said in a paid up advertisement.

The move, which Mr Meza argued levels the playing field for all operators, opens the door for the company to roll out the 3G network which allows subscribers to access mobile high speed data.

The plans, he added are at an advanced stage and will be done in partnership with global vendors, whom he did not name.

“The move is informed by the understanding that the real value of the 3G infrastructure is not in the upfront charge collected by the government but in the stimulus that the proliferation of data services and their usage will provide to the economy,” he added.

Zain Kenya, Telkom Kenya and Essar Telecom Kenya have in the past petitioned CCK to lower the charges.

Safaricom which three years ago paid the full Sh1.9 billion amount to acquire the 3G license has insisted that if the government bows to pressure from its competitors and reduces the fee, it should get a refund.

“Our position on the 3G spectrum pricing is that in the event of a reduction of fees, we expect a full refund of the difference between what we paid and what will be charged to the other operators,” said Chief Executive Officer Michael Joseph after CCK confirmed its decision to the media. 

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However, there has been conflicting reports from senior Information Ministry officials and those in the CCK on the possibility of compensating Safaricom, a move that is likely to spark a fresh round of controversy among the stakeholders.

CCK Director General Charles Njoroge has been quoted as saying “When we review our prices, I don’t think you (operator) get compensated.” He further said the revision would encourage more players to offer the services and increase competition in the sector.

But while admitting that the government made a mistake in charging Sh1.9 billion as licence fee for the roll out of the technology, Information Permanent Secretary Dr Bitange Ndemo has earlier said the government would put in place provisions to ensure that Safaricom is compensated.

However, he has said that they would be guided by the need to ensure Kenyans access and enjoy cost effective services.

“We are very sensitive to the competitive environment; we are very sensitive that Kenyans are paying more than other parts of the world  so we understand that, that’s why I’m saying we will sort this out,” the PS had pledged.

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