Kenya today has 3 more mobile operators after the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) issued them with licenses to operate as mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) under the applications service network provider category.
The 3 firms issued with licenses are Zioncell Kenya, Equity Bank's Finserve Africa and Tangaza Pesa's Mobile Pay.
The licensees will be able to provide all services currently being provided by mobile network operators (MNOs) including customer registration, SIM card issuance, billing and customer care services to end users.
According to CCK director general Francis Wangusi the MVNOs will however not own any spectrum license and will not also put up any infrastructure but utilize excess capacity from Airtel Kenya with which they have signed contracts.
"As you are aware, spectrum for building mobile network infrastructure is limited and we are therefore unable to accommodate many MNOs. At the same time the cost of building a mobile cellular network is high and few entities have the capacity to invest in such infrastructure," said Wangusi.
Wangusi said the concept of licensing MVNOs gives smaller enterprises the opportunity to set up and provide mobile cellular services without the need to heavily invest in the rollout of infrastructure.
Speaking after the launch, Oscar Ikinu, chairman and CEO, Tangaza Pesa, said the company that has been in the mobile money transfer segment for a while can now be able to maximize on its expertise while at the same time offer other services.
"We have experienced various hurdles especially from other leaders in the mobile money transfer services when we had not received this license. We now hope and know we can tackle them head on," said Ikinu.
According to the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) figures, Tangaza moved Ksh 1.31 billion in December 2011, coming second to Safaricom's M-Pesa with Ksh.116.6 billion.
Already the company has advertised for dealers, banks, financial institutions and agents to enter into partnership to provide the services it offers.
Zioncell Group CEO Julian Kyula said the MVNO license would add more credibility to the services offered by the company as some people have previously considered their services as not authentic.
Other MVNOs are expected to enter the scene once other MNOs namely Safaricom, Yu Mobile and Orange open up available capacity.
According to the GSM Association, there were over 800 MVNOs all over the globe as of May 2012.