No fewer than six companies have applied to the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) to operate internet node and backbone services in the country, following the termination of Telkom Kenya’s period of exclusivity on the sector at the end of June 2004. The six – Fast Lane, UUnet Kenya, Simbanet, Panafrican Communication Network, Access Kenya and Afsat Communications – will now have to wait for the CCK to decide how to award the licences. It is understood to be unsure on whether to license only three operators, or open the market fully to competition and award concessions on a first come first served basis. The official government position calls for four operators to be licensed, including the incumbent’s Jambonet division, the service to be offered by the second network operator (SNO), and two other companies. However, critics fear that if the state opts to pursue this option, a public tender would be required which could take up to a year to complete. In contrast, complete liberalisation could see the advent of competition within months. As it stands the country’s ISPs are required to rely on Jambonet for all upstream connectivity, with restrictions on services such as VSATs. As Jambonet is also operating as an ISP, the situation is not surprisingly deemed a barrier to competition.