The Kenyan Government is preparing new licensing regime for operators of telecommunication services. Information and Communications minister, Mutahi Kagwe further revealed that the process of searching for the Second National Operator (SNO) and third mobile operator would begin again soon.

He said the changes would be as a result of the planned review of the sector's 1997 policy statement. It was this document that introduced the threshold for equity participation by local investors in the telecommunications companies. Under the rule, any foreign firm entering the telecom market must offer 30 per cent sharehoding to locals."We are formulating new regulations for licensing national telecommunication operators and will gazette the new rules soon," he said.

The minister was speaking after the launch of Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) Information Centre - Geographic Information System (GIS) and Quality of Service Monitoring System - in Nairobi on Tuesday.

The facilities are expected to enhance CCK's capacity to serve communications industry and improve service delivery to subscribers of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) services.

Kagwe, however, ruled out abolishing the requirement that foreign companies investing in the telecommunication sector allocate 30 per cent shareholding to locals. He said the Government is keen to uphold the 30 per cent rule to ensure Kenyans have a share of the institutions. He said the Government would adopt measures to relax the requirement to quicken the process of appointing a Second National Operator (SNO).

Kagwe warned telecommunication service providers to brace stiff competition as more players join the market and challenged them to deal with existing inadequacies and align themselves to the demand patterns in the market. "I believe that efficiency and reliability in the delivery of telecommunications services requires consistent pro-active response to customers' needs. This is the foundation of consumer satisfaction and ultimately the driver of service quality," he said. The review is seen as the Government's response to the perennial disputes between local and foreign investors that have frustrated the conclusion of major telecoms projects.

CCK chairman, Joseph Njagi, said the new quality service monitoring system would enable CCK verify the quality of services offered by cellular mobile operators. "It will now become easier for CCK to determine the service and network availability in various parts of the country, their accessibility and whether the call completion rate is up to the expected standards."

The East African Standard