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Telco infrastructure sharing not feasible, says association

A Safaricom transmission mast at Kiratina in Nakuru on November 25, 2015. Ms Helen Wangari, a Nakuru businesswoman who has sued Safaricom in Nakuru court over alleged non-payment of Sh7 million rent on a parcel of land where the company’s mast sits. Suleiman Mbatah (Nakuru) 151125

A global association of mobile operators has cast doubt on the benefits of sharing infrastructure among telecoms players.

Kenya’s telecoms regulator has been pushing for shared infrastructure among the local players arguing this would heighten competition by reducing costs of deploying new network and see more frontier areas covered.

But the GSM Association — a global lobby for mobile operators — says in a new report that compelling telecom players inhibits effective competition.

“Policymakers in countries considering a move to a wholesale open access network for 4G services may believe they can achieve greater network coverage compared with models that rely on network competition. However, the research published demonstrates that this is not the case,” said John Giusti, chief regulatory officer, GSMA.

“We have found that network competition produces faster and more extensive network coverage, and the examples highlighted in the report indicate little evidence that a (shared infrastructure) is likely to achieve this.”

GSMA’s report examines the performance of the model (also known as single wholesale network or SWN) in five markets around the world including Kenya, Mexico, Russia, Rwanda and South Africa.

The Communications Authority of Kenya last year published guidelines that would see telcos compelled to share up to 30 per cent of new ICT infrastructure.

It argued then that a shared infrastructure policy would eliminate duplication of telco facilities.

The Kenya Information and Communications Regulations 2016 further sought to restrict the deployment of passive infrastructure unless there is no feasible option of co-location or where there is no option of infrastructure sharing with an existing infrastructure provider.

Under the model providers seeking to venture into frontier markets in the country would have to invest jointly in laying infrastructure like telecommunication masts, ducts and physical sites, among others.

The push by CA appears however to have fell through.

“The SWN push in Kenya has stalled due to a complicated negotiation process with a number of stakeholders,” said GSMA in its report.

“These struggles highlight how complicated the SWN model is.”

Under the framework the government would provide spectrum and private companies would roll out and operate the wholesale network.

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