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Kenyan telcos clash over interconnection capacity

Zain accuses Safaricom of abusing its market dominance by restricting cross-network capacity

The CCK reduced interconnection fees in a bid to reduce prices for mobile users in Kenya.
The CCK reduced interconnection fees in a bid to reduce prices for mobile users in Kenya.

Kenya's two leading mobile operators, Safaricom and Zain Kenya, are embroiled in a dispute over interconnection capacity after the country's regulator, the CCK (Communications Commission of Kenya), cut mobile interconnection rates by 50%.

The dispute arose after Zain accused market leader Safaricom of offering only limited capacity for cross-network calls originating from Zain's network.

Zain, which reduced its tariffs to other networks by 50% in May, said that its customers were experiencing call congestion when calling Safaricom's network and the operator added that it had sent an official complaint to the CCK.

Rene Meza, managing director, Zain Kenya, said that his company had requested for a "swap-out" of some circuits linking the two operators. He added that such a request could be completed within minutes at no cost, yet Zain was unable to get a commitment from Safaricom as to when the process would take place.

But Safaricom's CEO, Michael Joseph, refuted the claims, which he described as "insincere" and "premature".

"We are quite surprised by the claims made by Zain that we are trying to stifle the delivery of their traffic to our network.

"Zain is fully aware of the procedures that all operators must adhere to when seeking to increase their inter-connect traffic capacity," Joseph said.

"Under the agreement the inter-connect pipe belongs to them and they should have upgraded it long before [18 August] to accommodate their changed tariff plan."

Joseph added that the inter-connect agreement between Safaricom and Zain provides for a minimum notice period of seven working days before a request for increased capacity can be effected.

"Zain's formal request was received by us late last night [18 August] and we were in the process of processing it alongside other capacity requests received on the day."

"Safaricom has now and in the past continued to adhere to the terms of the inter-connect agreements signed with all operators and wishes to urge other operators to do the same," he added.

The CCK reduced mobile interconnection rates by 50% to Kshs2.21 ($0.027), on August 16, and said that the rates will be reduced by a further 35%, 20% and 15% in 2011, 2012 and 2013 respectively, to stand at Kshs0.87 by 2014.