Airtel off the hook in Sh2.1 billion licence fee demand

By: LILIAN OCHIENG

The Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) says Airtel will not be asked to pay Sh2.1 billion to renew its licence since it is operating on Essar Telecom’s permit.

Authority Director-General Francis Wangusi said the government is working on a plan that will amicably bring the issue to an end and will soon make it known to the public.

His remarks come amid complaints by industry stakeholders demanding that if the CA challenges Telkom Kenya’s sale over Sh1.5 billion in frequency and licence debts, Airtel should also be put to task to pay up.

Mr Wangusi, however, said on phone that, “Airtel’s case is different, the government already approved them to ride on Essar’s licence. Essar cleared all debts they had for us before we allowed them to sell their shares to Safaricom and Airtel.”

Mr Wangusi maintained that if Telkom Kenya is to sell its 70 per cent stake, then it should exit the local scene with a clean sheet.

CA said it will check if Telkom Kenya has any more debts accruing from misuse of frequency and failure to meet quality of service before it is cleared.

Discussions are currently ongoing over the Airtel licence fee, with the CA board split over the matter.

Despite his current stand on the issue, Mr Wangusi had previously insisted that Airtel pay up the fee for a 10 year frequency licence spectrum after it expired in February.

Airtel, which has gone quiet over the subject, wants its frequency permit renewed without paying the required Sh2.1 billion fee.

“On August 11, 2014, the regulator outlined the agreed conditions to synchronise Airtel’s licence renewal with the acquisition of Essar licences and customers,” Airtel Chief Executive Adil El Youssefi said in a statement last month.

Airtel is said to have paid Sh30.2 million for synchronisation of the operating licence it acquired from Essar.

Initially, CA had demanded that Airtel be made to pay the balance as frequency spectrum fees.

SOURCE: DAILY NATION