Airtel Kenya is in a stalemate with regulators over the renewal of its operating licence, with the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) insisting that the operator must pay a fee of KES 2.1 billion to stay in business. The mobile operator, which says the fee is too high for a small company like itself, has been seeking a review for over a year now without luck. This has led to a deadlock that saw Airtel’s licence expire in February and the renewal process dragging on six months later. In the meantime, Airtel is operating on a licence acquired along with the Yu assets early this year.
The CA is demanding KES 2 billion for spectrum fees, KES 30.2 million for initial annual operating fees, outstanding frequency fees of KES 24.9 million and a penalty payment of KES 1.5 million to renew Airtel’s licence. Airtel Kenya managers told the Business Daily they had met all conditions for the renewal — a claim that the CA denied, saying Airtel has not paid the fees.
Francis Wangusi, the CA director-general, said any applicable fees must be paid by Airtel before the licence is renewed and that the Yu licence it’s currently operating under was not automatically transferable. The CA, he added, considered and accepted the use of Yu’s licence pending conclusion of the application. The CA, however, did not disclose how much Airtel paid for Yu’s GSM licence. In 2014, in a joint buyout valued at KES 12.3 billion, Airtel acquired Essar Telecom subsidiary Yu’s subscribers, GSM licences and subscriber-related contracts.