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CCK applies brakes on push for 700MHz band

NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 16 – The Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) has responded to petitions by Safaricom which is seeking the surrender of assigned broadcasting frequencies on the 700MHz band to mobile operators and other service providers for use in the deployment of 4G services.

The industry regulator says the petition is “ill-timed and impracticable.”

“The spectrum/frequencies in question here (i.e. 700MHz band) will only become available for re-assignment for use in deployment of non-broadcasting services after the successful migration from analogue to digital TV broadcasting,” CCK acting Director-General Francis Wangusi said in a statement on Friday.

Wangusi said that the World Radiocommunications Conference 2012 held in Geneva, Switzerland early this year resolved that assignment of spectrum in the frequency band 694-790MHz to mobile services would be done in 2015.

This however, would be subject to results of studies conducted between now and then on the feasibility of implementing mobile services in part or in the entire 694-790MHz frequency range.

“Spectrum on this band is currently allocated to broadcasting services. Thus, it is the said studies that will effectively determine the amount of digital dividends (or freed up spectrum) that will emerge from the 694-790MHz frequency range for use in deployment of non-broadcasting services (including superfast mobile broadband/internet and other services),” he said.

The CCK indicated that the country would miss the June 30th 2012 digital migration deadline, which had been initially recommended by the Digital Television Committee (DTC) to enable the country to have the flexibility and time to address difficulties that would arise before the multi-laterally agreed deadline of 2015.

“The 2012 national deadline for migration to the digital TV broadcasting is not cast in stone. As has happened in other countries, the deadline could be postponed if there are challenges in achieving it,” Wangusi added.

Mobile operators eager to roll-out the Long Term Evolution (LTE) (4G) network have resisted delays, lobbying the communications regulator to fast track the process.

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“We want the broadcasters out as quickly as possible and we want the policy from the regulator as to whether they will auction that spectrum, give it to us or go with the wholesale PPP model the Ministry (Information) is proposing,” Safaricom Director of Corporate Affairs Nzioka Waita said earlier this week.

The government invited the private sector to partner in LTE deployment last year, in a bid to benefit smaller ISPs (Internet service providers) and further reduce connectivity costs.

The partnership initiative calls for LTE deployment through an open-access model, where small and big operators will be able to use infrastructure without worrying about spectrum fees and high capital expenditures during rollout.

Companies that had tier-one network operator status, 20 percent Kenyan ownership and capability of rolling out a countrywide network within a year, were eligible candidates for the partnership.

President Mwai Kibaki launched the digital broadcasting rollout in December 2009, with the ambitious target for the country to fully migrate by June 2012 ahead of the global deadline of 2015.

This followed an international agreement reached at the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in 2006, with member countries to set 17th June 2015 as the global deadline for the switch-off of analogue TV broadcasting.

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