Kenya: CCK says it lacks space for third digital player

Regulation & Policy

The Communications Commission of Kenya has said it does not have broadcasting spectrum to issue to the media owners, despite a government promise to allocate them the third digital signal distribution license.

The industry regulator, said the spectrum that would have been given to broadcasters (through DTT) was taken away in favor of mobile services through an agreement by International Telecommunication Union (ITU), of which Kenya is a member.

"During the World Radio communications conference in 2012, the ITU countries agreed that they are going to further inch into the broadcasting spectrum by another 100MHZ, so this restricted the broadcast spectrum up to channel 48," Francis Wangusi CCK director general said last week.

"This means even the frequency that we had spared for the third licensee is no longer there. As of right now we do not have enough spectrum to give to a third signal distributor," he said.

The media owners recently- during the World Press Freedom celebration- renewed calls to be granted the third signal distribution license.

Wangusi said CCK will not be engaging in talks of licensing knowing it is not tenable. He said the spectrum might be available once the country has fully migrated its broadcasting from analogue to digital- which could be around 2015.

"Even when we get the spectrum, we have to go through a competitive tender process, so it is not a guarantee that any of them will get," Wangusi said.

He suggested to media owners who want to get in to signal distribution business to either enter a Public Private Partnership with government on the Signet license or alternatively buy stake in the Pan African Group. The Chinese owned distributer was granted the license in 2011 and is set to offload part of its shares to local owners.

"As one of the conditions to the foreign distributor, we gave them two years to get a local shareholder. Media owners can buy their way in and get controlling stake," Wangusi said.

He however warned the investment into signal distribution may not have a returns as soon as they expect given the low number of viewers in the country. He approximates at least 10 years to realise returns.