Telkom Kenya Gets Nod to Resume Portable 'Fixed' Line Service


The telecoms regulator has given Telkom Kenya the go-ahead to reintroduce its portable "fixed" line service on a national scale, a move that is expected to breathe new life into the firm's CDMA platform.

The lifting of the ban on a national CDMA service came after intense lobbying by Telkom. The move is of strategic importance to Telkom in terms of securing its current fixed line subscribers, consisting mainly of the corporate world and government offices. In addition, the move was likely to make the CDMA service more palatable to individual subscribers.

"We are excited about our reintroduction of the nationwide CDMA service. We expect that people who had abandoned their CDMA mobiles will reactivate them since they can now access our network in any part of the country," said the company's Head of Corporate Communications, Angela Mumo.

The service was launched in 2006, then called Telkom Wireless, to protect its client base that came under threat from the revolution of mobile telephony ushered into the country by the first two GSM service providers. Telkom Wireless offered lower mobile tariffs than its GSM rivals since it did not attract the 26 per cent tax that was charged on mobile calls.

The move generated a lot of controversy, with the government being accused of favouring Telkom. The company at that time defended itself, saying Telkom Wireless was essentially a fixed line service that could not be interpreted as a mobile service. But the criticism mounted and last year Telkom launched its own GSM service while keeping the CDMA service.

Analysts say despite rolling out its own GSM services, Telkom has retained its portable fixed line service with the express purpose of protecting its subscribers already using it. Currently, the firm has a total of 500,000 subscribers on both the dedicated fixed line and its portable version that is hinged on the CDMA mobile subscription. Tariff charges are the same for the fixed line and the mobile version. Top-up charges for the two platforms are integrated as well.

Telkom's move to join its rivals on the GSM platform was still not good enough for its rivals who continued to pile pressure on the communications commission of Kenya (CCK), the industry's regulator, arguing that Telkom was running two mobile services under one licence.

About a year ago, CCK directed the company to henceforth stop the nationwide CDMA service and instead implement a system whereby subscribers would only access the company's network within pre-specified geographical zones. Following the new rule, for instance, a subscriber in Nairobi was issued with a number having the prefix 020. Once out of Nairobi and its environs, the mobile went dead. The geographical capping of the service eroded their attraction, making users to shelve handsets and pick from the array of GSM offerings.

Business Daily