5 March 2005

Kenya: Obey the Law, Telkom Told

Nairobi — State-owned Telkom Kenya has been censured for being anti-competitive.

It has also been ordered by market regulator, Communications Commission of Kenya to restore Voice over Internet Protocol services to a local firm.

Last month, Telkom suspended the Sema VoIP calling card service which offered Kenyans affordable rates to make international calls.

Using the protocol calling card, a call to US and Europe costs about Sh10 a minute.

In a letter dated February 28, the commission's director-general, Mr Sammy Kirui, reminded Telkom's managing director, Mr John Waweru, that the services by internet service providers and other operators was no longer an outlawed activity.

He also warned Telkom against taking the law into its own hands whenever it felt aggrieved.

"This is to ask you restore the services disconnected forthwith. Enforcement of licence conditions is the mandate of the commission under the law. If Telkom has complaints against a service provider or any other player in the industry, the logical course to take is to lodge a complaint or dispute with the commission rather than take the law into your own hands," Mr Kirui said.

The Sema calling card, introduced early this year, is a joint venture between ISP Kenya Limited and Canadian based BMT North America. The Canadian firm provides the technology backbone, while ISP Kenya provides a back-end internet link for the service.

Last month, Telkom disconnected individuals and businesses using the Sema calling card from making international calls after cutting off a line they issued to ISP Kenya Ltd.

Yesterday, Mr Brian Longwe, the chief technology officer at ISP Kenya, asked Telkom to stop fearing legal competition.

"Telkom have held back Kenyans from affordable communication for all the years of their monopoly. Now they are blocking competitors from giving Kenyans the affordable services they need, although they are not offering an alternative," said Mr Longwe.

He said Telkom's actions also breached a contract they had signed with the firm over the service.

"We met all the requirements to offer the services including paying Telkom Kenya in advance for the services they have now illegally cut-off," said Mr Longwe.

Mr Kirui said that Telkom's exclusivity ended on June 30 last year, and a new licensing strategy, unveiled last September, allows network operators and ISP's to carry any form of multimedia traffic, including Voice over Internet Protocol.

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