The Government will not register any other regional telecommunications firm to compete with Telkom in fixed lines business after only one applicant qualified. Bell Western received the licence to operate as a regional telecommunications operator in the expansive but under-served North- Eastern Province after paying a Sh39.9 million fee yesterday.

Communications Commission of Kenya director-general Sammy Kirui said two other firms that had qualified to do business in other regions – Telair Communications and Sasitel – were now disqualified after failing to meet the August deadline to pay the licence fee.

“This affair has dragged on for too long. We have put a stop to it after the other two potential operators failed to meet the conditions. We will now concentrate on the search for a second national operator to compete with Telkom,” he said. The three firms were supposed to pay the fee immediately and roll out within six months.

But the ambitious plan, meant to improve telecommunications in rural Kenya, got muddled up in lengthy negotiations as the successful applicants expressed doubts over the profitability of the business. Besides, they did not seem to have the required funds, with some asking to be allowed to pay the fee by instalment. The result is that the regional operator issue became a stop-go affair with no clear end in sight until the Government moved in.

Sasitel, formerly Safitel, had been licensed to operate in the North Rift and Eastern Province for a fee of Sh684 million, while Telair was to pay Sh2.135 billion to get the green light to compete with Telkom in the provision of land lines in Coast, Central, South Rift, Nyanza and Western.

With the awarding of the licence, Bell Western, which is to operate as Warsan, will be expected to lay its network to meet the communication commission’s performance targets, which require it to have rolled out 20,939 lines in five years.The other targets include two payphones per sub location and 636 within three years.

Daily Nation