The Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) last week announced that it had abolished the widely criticised auction system of awarding licenses in the telecom sector.CCK Director General Sammy Kirui said the process is not desirable in an open market.

Instead, he said, the CCK will come up with a fixed price strategy for selling all its market segmentation services. The regulator’s market segmentation has 46 different licence types that are divided in to 9 licence/market groups.

Kirui said the new measures would ensure that only those with the capacity to meet their obligations got the licences. CCK, he noted, had realised that bidders were using all methods to get the licences yet they lacked the capacity to provide the services. Kirui was speaking at the CCK offices during the launch of a post exclusivity regulatory strategy.

In the strategy, the Government has set in motion steps that will result in complete liberalisation of the telecommunications sector by 2009. The sector opened up to competition in June 30, 2004 ending Telkom Kenya’s exclusivity that had lasted 5-years from 1999.Currently, the regulator is in the process of licensing a number of service providers to compete with Telkom/JamboNet.

Last week, Kirui said CCK’s short-term objective is to open up the international gateway, broadcast signal distribution and commercial Vsat operation segments.He said that following the changes, all mobile phone operators will now be allowed to construct and operate their own international gateways if they choose to.

He said CCK will provide licenses for additional Internet Backbone and Gateway Operators on a first come first served basis,subject to the licensee demonstrating capacity to run such a network.

CCK will also allow the Public Data Networks Operators (PDNOs) to establish International Gateways for data communication services in order to extend their reach and offer their customers high quality international connectivity that is managed from one platform.

Additionally, the providers of Internet Backbone and gateway Operators, Broadcast Signal Distributors and commercial Vsat Operators and PDNOs will be allowed to carry any form of multimedia traffic including Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP).

"I would like to make it clear that the aforementioned provisions will be effected immediately to ensure that the regulatory environment in the sector is friendly to investment and conducive to the provision of modern communication services," said Kirui. He said CCK will in the long run adopt a unified licensing regime to enable all communication companies provide services they are technically capable of offering.

"In the next two to five years, the commission will structure the market accordingly by creating distinct and technology neutral market categorisation," said Kirui.

This will provide for a Network Facilities Providers (NFP), Application Service Provider (ASP) and Contents Service Provider (CSP) segments.

The NFPs shall own and operate any form of communications infrastructure based on satellite, terrestrial, mobile and fixed while the ASP would provide all forms of services to end users using the network services a NFP.

East African Standard