Telkom Kenya, Airtel and Jamii Telecom Apply for Extension of 4G Licenses

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Telco Safaricom has single handedly managed to spur the adoption of 4G network in the country, and was only joined a few months ago by Telkom Kenya that had been testing the service for some time. At the moment, Kenyans can get access to 4G if they are subscribers of either of the mentioned operators, and while it is an open secret that Kenya’s second largest operator Airtel is testing the service, its users are still locked on 3.75G or lower.

According to the Daily Nation, Telkom Kenya, Airtel and Jamii Telecom (JTL) have reached out to the Kenya’s ICT watchdog aka the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) in a bid to renew their 4G trial licenses. It certainly appears that the three companies’ trial permits are time barred, and only Telkom’s is commercially available. The telocoms companies want to extend their trial exercises, which means that the telcos are vouching for more time to iron out a couple of issues before mass roll out.

Notably, these licenses do not come cheap. It is an issue that has been raised by Airtel, including a case where Jamii Telecoms was awarded a 700 MHz 4G frequency spectrum for measly KES 100,000. A similar license for tier 1 companies like Airtel, Telkom Kenya and Safaricom cost KES 2.5 billion each. It has since been made clear that JTL will launch 4G services in coming days, in addition mobile services such as SMS and voice.

It is apparent that acquiring base stations is an expensive affair, and delayed roll out has been associated to lack of finances to support the service on a large scale. On the bright side of things, CA has reported that the three operators will continue testing LTE services as license extensions are reviewed. Also, those who have tabled their applications are not supposed to halt the service.

JTL’s 4G one-year trial license expired on September 15, while that of Telkom Kenya and Airtel September 30 and August respectively.

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