The Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) last week launched a strategy to licence local loop operators (LLO) in order to increase access to fixed telephone lines. The facility is expected to provide flexible and lower user services to fixed line users.Addressing an industry stakeholders’ forum at a Nairobi hotel, the CCK Director-General, Sammy Kirui, said the commission had reduced barriers to the provision of licences for the LLOs.

"The commission expects the local loop operators to meet the changing customer demands through enhancement of bulk services they purchase from the carrier operators," Kirui said.

Local loop operators, he said, could complement the efforts of carrier operators in the provision of local services. "The arrangement would yield mutual benefits through creation of business and revenue opportunities for the national carriers and local loop operators," Kirui said.

He said the potential of the local loop in satisfying un-met demand for services was enormous given that only 10 per cent of Kenyan population has access to fixed telephone lines.

Kirui said current household demand for fixed telecommunications services stands at 1.6 million, against a switched fixed capacity of 500,000. Since 2001, he said, CCK has licensed two local loop operators and a number of other licences are at various stages of processing. Kirui said the use of LLOs would increase customer choice and reduce the number of people queuing to be hooked on the fixed line network.

"Our experience with a liberalised cellular mobile market has clearly demonstrated what competition can do in extending services, in job creation and income generation, among other benefits," Kirui said. He said the dramatic increase in mobile service subscription from below 20,000 in June 2000 to over 2 million currently poses no threat to fixed telephony.

Eastern Standard