Safaricom awarded 3G licence

19 Oct 2007

The Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) has awarded a 3G licence to former monopoly operator Safaricom, for a payment of USD25 million. The regulator has assured Safaricom’s rivals, Celtel Kenya and Econet Wireless International Kenya that there is enough spectrum available if they wish to apply for a concession of their own. ‘By rolling out 3G, Safaricom shall now be able to extend its range of services to include high speed data communications such as mobile internet access, mobile video conferencing and videophone,’ said John Waweru, CCK’s head honcho. Safaricom executive Michael Joseph said that he expects some UMTS services to be launched as soon as next month.

Safaricom is 60%-owned by the state, and 40%-owned by holding company Vodafone Kenya. The UK’s Vodafone Group holds 87.5% of Vodafone Kenya, giving it a 35% indirect stake in Safaricom, with 12.5% of Vodafone Kenya held by mysterious Guernsey-registered firm Mobitelea Ventures. According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms database it is the market leader by a country mile, with close to seven million subscribers at the end of June this year, a 75% market share. Kuwaiti-owned Celtel has the remainder; Econet has yet to launch services, having only been cleared by the CCK to operate in July 2007, and is planning to do so early next year.