TELECOMS

ECONET ACQUIRES BASE STATION SITES FOR ROLL-OUT IN KENYA

Econet Wireless Kenya (EWK) has acquired 100 sites for its base stations, the Executive Director of Econet Wireless International, Mr Zachary Wazara, has said. He said a large fraction of the sites are in Nairobi and will be operational during the second half of this year.

However, the mobile phone consortium, consisting of Rapsel Limited, Kenya National Federation of Cooperatives (KNFC) and Corporate Africa, refused to give a detailed account of its rollout plan.The company appears to be enjoying a fresh lease of life after revelations that Information and Communication Minister Raphael Tuju did not cancel its licence.

While cancelling the license, Tuju said it was obvious that the Kenya National Federation of Cooperatives, Rapsel Limited and Corporate Africa, the local partners in the consortium, had proved incapable of raising the money to enable them hold shares for their stake as per the Government's policy for the sector.

"The Government has today nullified the issuance of the license for the third mobile operator. All the money so far paid for this license will be refunded," said Tuju. But early this week, Tuju retracted his earlier stance that had cancelled the EWK licence on November 27 last year.

In an affidavit filed in court, Tuju said his statement, which was the subject of a suit filed by EWK, "was not a decision but an expression of concern" by the Government. Last week, Wazara said the company's rollout plan was in top gear.

He said more than 10,000 Kenyans had responded to its recruitment drive.

Early this month, Econet defied the cloud of uncertainty surrounding its operations in Kenya by advertising a number of positions for the roll out.

Between now and the official launch, Wazara said Econet would spend Sh6.84 billion."We have spent USD30 million (Sh2.2 billion) and we will add another USD60 million (Sh4.5 billion) worth of equipment for deployment in the next 6-monthsa," he said. The company says its five-year rollout strategy will cost Sh38 billion. After the initial set up, Wazara said Econet would spend Sh76 million on its operations annually until 2010.

The company has been allocated two frequencies for its mobile phone services. Other than the licence authorising Econet to operate mobile phone business in Kenya, Wazara showed The Standard the company's licence - No.TL/GSM/00003 issued EWK on November 10, 2004 and signed by suspended Communication Commission of Kenya (CCK) Director General Sammy Kirui.

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