Quick as a Flash: WiLL firm under the cosh

11 Jun 2012

Fixed-wireless operator Flashcom, which launched its 1900MHz CDMA2000 1x network in Nairobi in November 2005, risks having its licence stripped by the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) over accusations of illegal connections of international voice traffic over Safaricom’s network, and a failure to pay annual operating fees. Quoting CCK correspondence dated 16 May, Business Daily Africa reports that Flashcom has been given 45 days to clear its annual licence fees arrears of KES67 million (USD780,978), pay a penalty fee of KES2 million and submit its quarterly returns. In addition, the watchdog has suspended the company’s interconnection agreement with mobile giant Safaricom. Further, Flashcom has been accused of operating a faulty billing system that overcharged its subscribers. Despite the CCK granting approval for more than 30 companies to offer wireless in the local loop (WiLL) services in Kenya, only two, Flashcom and Popote Wireless, actually went on to launch commercial services. Although the pair were confident of the strengths of their respective business models, the fixed-wireless operators quickly struggled, as CCK-imposed licence conditions limited on-net traffic to Nairobi, with any external voice traffic needing to be carried by a national fixed or mobile operator. 2010 saw Popote shut down by its owners after negligible returns, leaving the struggling Flashcom as the sole competitor to wireline incumbent Telkom Kenya.