Kenyan Regulator Clears TV White Spaces Access Framework, Procedures for Geolocation Databases and Consults On Community Licences

London — After over eight years in the works, Kenya's regulator, Communications Authority of Kenya, has finally published its guidelines for the use of TV White Spaces. Russell Southwood talked to Martha Suarez, President, Dynamic Spectrum Alliance about the progress TV White Spaces is making in Kenya.

The first TV White Spaces (TVWS) event in Sub-Saharan Africa was held in Johannesburg in 2013 (sponsored by Google and Microsoft) and in April 2016 Kenya's Mawingu Networks went over to ISM bands to operate, in the absence of regulatory clarity. (Mawingu Networks continues to be supportive of the TVWS project.) It's been a long road to reach the point where the Kenyan regulator has both issued a framework for those wanting to operate using TV White Spaces and procedures for the geo-location databases needed to operate it.

The Authority has authorized TVWS use in the 470-694 MHz UHF Spectrum band. Implentation is being kept on a tight leash:"The Authority shall assess every model ... to ensure it meets the Type Approval requirements before installation. The operation of (TVWS) shall be managed by geolocation database(s) qualified by the Authority, which will hold details on the location and operation of DTT transmitters. The communication between TVWS devices and geolocation databases will be performed following the 'Procedure for Qualification of Geolocation Databases'.

This framework follows previous consultations with stakeholders and trials conducted between 2013 and 2019 on TVWS applications."

The TVWS framework must be seen alongside Licensing and Shared Spectrum Framework for Community Networks for Kenya also just issued by the Authority.

(ca.go.ke/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/Licensing-and-Shared-Spectrum-Framework-for-Community-Networks-May-2021.docx.pdf)

According to a summary published on the Kictanet forum, the Community Network Licensing framework proposes:

  1. Community Network Service Provider (CNSP) License to be created within the Unified Licensing Framework.
  2. The community network should be fully controlled by a non-profit entity and carried on for non-profitable purposes, encouraging members of the community to participate in the governance, design, and operationalisation.
  3. Two letters of support from Community Leaders as part of the application process for CNSP to ensure community ownership
  4. Geographical coverage of a CNSP will be a sub-county boundary
  5. License period of 10 years with License Application fee Ksh1000, Initial Operating License Fee Ksh 5000, and Annual Operating Fee Ksh5000.
  6. Spectrum Fee: Fee waiver for non-protected access to lightly-licensed and license-exempt frequency bands by wireless access systems
  7. CNSPs would be exempt from USF contributions, while the USF implementation framework may include a community ICT development and/or capacity building component. The authority shall further examine ways to ensure that community networks receive consideration under the future framework for the Universal Service Fund.

After what has been long-term opposition from the dominant market player, Safaricom, this potentially provides a route to closing gaps in both voice and internet coverage in hard-to-reach rural areas. TVWS is being described as a niche application to lower costs for reaching theses area, both in terms of reach and as part of hybrid networks for backhaul. According to Suarez:"It can be used as 'middle' backhaul. TVWS is not suitable for all regions but it can provide broadband coverage in hard-to-reach spaces in Africa and Latin America." Interestingly a broadcaster in Colombia has been using TVWS to provide internet in rural areas.

In Brief

Sao Tome: Companhia Santomense de Telecomunicacoes (CST), the incumbent provider of fixed, mobile and data services in Sao Tome and Principe, has revealed that it is prepared and ready to deploy 4G in the country, but said that it is still awaiting regulatory permission to launch LTE services. According to the operator, it submitted a request to launch a trial 4G network to the General Regulatory Authority (Autoridade Geral de Regulacao, AGER) on 1 March 2021, but has not yet received a response. CST has called on the regulator to work with it on the issue and added that 'all parties should focus on the implementation of 4G as soon as possible and not continue to delay it for reasons of procedural or bureaucratic forum'.

Uganda: Raxio has officially launched Uganda's first state of the art Tier III carrier-neutral data centre at its site in the Kampala Industrial and Business Park (KIBP), Uganda.

Ethiopia: A consortium including major players Vodafone, Vodacom and Safaricom has won a licence to offer telecoms services in Ethiopia, but the opening up of the country is unlikely to end here. The Ethiopian Communications Authority (ECA) and the country's Ministry of Finance jointly announced that a grouping made up the three aforementioned telcos, the UK's CDC Group, Sumitomo Corporation of Japan, and the US government-backed Development Finance Corporation (DFC) has been granted a licence that will end more than a century of state monopoly in Ethiopian telecoms. The country had planned to award two licences - and indeed received bids from two consortia - but reserved the right to issue one licence only after interest in the process was weaker than it had expected. There was no mention of the second bidder, led by telco heavyweight MTN and including China's Silk Road Fund and other unnamed entities from the private equity space, in the regulator's announcement, but presumably its offer did not come up to snuff.

Benin: As part of its telecoms reforms, Benin's Council of Ministers has appointed Sonatel as the strategic partner and manager for the Beninois infrastructure company SBIN.

Tanzania: Mondia Pay and M-Pesa have partnered to allow Tanzanians to conveniently access Mondia's leading suite of online content on the Vodacom Tanzania PLC digital services network.

Ethiopia: Flutterwave has partnered with Ethiopia's mobile Digital Wallet platform, Amole, to facilitate money transfer into Ethiopia. Through this partnership, Amole Wallet users will be able to send money to bank accounts and cash pickup locations at over 2,500 locations across the country.

Nigeria: The Telecom Consumer Complaints statistics for the first quarter of 2021 released by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), unsurprisingly indicates that out of the 3,019 total complaints logded against service providers by telecom subscribers, MTN Nigeria got the highest complaints.

Intelsat has just announced that they have opened a new Global Customer Operations Centre in Johannesburg. This new Intelsat customer-support centre covers the entire African continent and has both English and French speakers available to help the hundreds of Intelsat's existing customers across the continent with a variety of support requests. This is important as Global Customer Operation Centres are critical element of Intelsat strategy to provide world-class customer experience. Strategically located, Global Customer Operations Centres provide in-region customers with 24/7 in-language support and allow Intelsat to offer more services to more customers in those regions.

MTN's MoMo business has entered a US$2 million partnership with the World Bank's finance arm, the IFC. The partnership will see MTN South Africa seek to recruit 10 000 Mobile Money Agents in 2021 to increase access to affordable financial services in underserved communities. MTN will identify, recruit, enroll, train, and supervise the new MoMo agents and assist any dormant MoMo agents by giving them support where they struggle to get off the ground.

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