Nairobi — Competition in the telecommunications sector is expected to go a notch higher after the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) issued three Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) licenses.
The concept is aimed at giving smaller enterprises the opportunity to set up and provide mobile cellular services without the need to heavily invest in the rollout of infrastructure.
The three licensees include Finserve Africa Limited, Zioncell Kenya Limited and MobilePay Limited which will all be hosted by Airtel Kenya.
The companies have been awarded the MVNO licences under the 'Application Service Provider (ASP)' category of the CCK's Unified Licensing Framework adopted in 2008, which allows them to offer several mobile related services.
"The three firms will provide cellular mobile services including customer registration, SIM cards issuance, billing and customer care to end users without holding a spectrum license," CCK Director General Francis Wangusi said during the announcement on Friday.
Finserve Africa Limited is a subsidiary of Equity Bank which will now expected to ride on the bank's wide customer base.
Meanwhile, MobilePay Limited is the ICT company that has designed and runs the current 'Tangaza Pesa' money transfer applications which has been in existence for over three years now.
Tangaza Pesa was earlier licensed by the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) and CCK to operate as a Money Transfer and E-Payments System.
On the other hand Zioncell Kenya Limited is an affiliate of Mobile Decisioning (MODE), a technology company that provides mobile value added services to mobile network operators in emerging nations. It has live operations in 13 countries in Africa at the moment.
Wangusi said the move will also accelerate the growth of many innovations since the small firms will have room to adopt them unlike now where it is a hustle for the big mobile operator to use them.
"As early as 2004, the commission had appreciated the existence of MVNOs in other countries and in principle agreed that they could be licensed, provided an agreement with a Mobile Network Operator is reached," the CCK boss said.
The commission has developed guidelines that will generally act as safeguards to the end users in terms of quality of service, billing and customer care. The MVNOs are obligated to provide services within the set Quality of Service parameters and targets.
By June this year, the commission plans to come up with new regulations that will push the current three mobile operators including Safaricom, Airtel and Orange Telkom to share their infrastructure, "since spectrum for more mobile operators is limited."
"You can't have so much idle resources yet you are not ready to share. It is like having so many suits in your wardrobe, most of which you don't even wear, yet others desperately need them," Wangusi maintained despite continued opposition from the operators.