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Orange unveils Sh3b 3G rollout

NAIROBI, Kenya Nov 24- Telkom Kenya is aiming to improve its competitiveness in the data market with the roll out of third generation (3G) services in the first half of 2011.

This comes after Orange was awarded a 3G license following a year of non-commercial testing in selected areas around Nairobi.

Speaking while receiving the license, Telkom Kenya Chief Executive Officer Mikael Ghossein said the roll out of 3G is part of the operator’s aggressive strategy to shore up customer numbers.

“We are determined to leverage on Orange technological advancements to ensure that our customers here benefit as well,” Mr Ghossein said.

3G technology offers higher data speeds, more security, and more variety of services.

Safaricom is the only operator in the market to have launched the service to consumers.  Airtel (formerly Zain) acquired a similar license earlier in the year and is set to roll out in the first quarter of 2011.

There had been controversy over the fees for 3G spectrum after Safaricom had challenged the downward review from $25 million it had paid in 2007. The CCK however revised the figure making it possible for other operators to acquire the license.

Mr Ghossein said it also gives the operator an opportunity to diversify its revenue stream as voice revenue continues to take a beating in the market.

“We have to look at the bottom-line. Right now we don’t have the composition in terms of volumes in terms of voice,” Mr Ghossein explained.

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Telkom Kenya has seen its voice revenue go down by over 10 percent since the regulator reviewed interconnection fees to Sh2.21 giving way for price cuts.

This saw the country’s four mobile operators engage in a vicious price war in an effort of retaining or swaying customers.

Mr Ghossein said Orange would continue offering reliable internet services at a competitive price, to ensure that they boost their day-to-day productivity.

To maintain its steady data market share growth, Orange intends to invest between Sh2 and Sh5 billion to roll out a superior 3G network in the country.

“The new 3G network promises higher internet download and upload speeds while at the same time provides a platform for value addition services such as mobile TV, video on demand and video conferencing,” he said.

At the same time, the regulator said it was in talks with various government agencies to free up a number of frequencies to increase spectrum for broadband use.

CCK Director General Charles Njoroge said the commission wants a number of agencies to migrate from the 2.5-gigahertz band to pave way for deployment of wireless broadband services in the country.

“These discussions are at an advances stage to make this a reality. The Commission will soon announce other measures being taken to avail more spectrum for roll out of broadband services,” Mr Njoroge said.

The CCK is optimistic that these measures will increase internet penetration in the country, which currently stands at 7.8 million users representing 19.9 percent of the total population.

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