Airtel Kenya has paid $25 million (Sh2.53 billion) licence fee for high-speed 4G Internet spectrum, paving the way for full rollout of its mobile broadband services after a year-long trial.
The country’s second-largest telco by market share paid the amount early last month, the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) confirmed in a statement.
“Airtel Networks Kenya Ltd has paid the 4G LTE 800 MHz licence fee of $25 million,” said the CA in a statement.
The loss-making company, owned by India’s Bharti Airtel, becomes the second telco aftermarket leader Safaricom to pay the fee.
Telkom Kenya, 40 percent controlled by the State, is still operating on a trial permit, which expired last September, but successfully sought for a six-month extension.
“Telkom Kenya is yet to pay the fees since it is still undertaking the trial until the end of March 2018,” the CA said.
Jamii Telecom, the newest entrant into mobile broadband space, is also operating on a 4G trial licence which expires in June.
“We are in the process of (officially) rolling out 4G and we expect to officially launch soon. We are driving towards the fastest speeds at the most affordable rates in Kenyan market with Airtel 4G,” Airtel said in a statement.
“Customers with 4G-enabled phones together with 4G SIM cards are now able to experience our 4G network in various parts of Nairobi.”
Mobile data is the latest battlefront for telcos, thanks to rising ownership of smartphones.
Jamii Telecom last December shocked the mobile data market with monthly bundles of 25 gigabytes (GB) for Sh1,000 and 210GB for Sh6,000 as a strategy to penetrate the mobile telephony space.
Safaricom charges Sh500 for 1GB, Sh1,000 for 3GB, Sh2,000 for 7.5GB and Sh3,000 for 12GB.
The telco controls the lion’s share of the market at 76 percent as at last September.
Airtel – which had 15.7 percent share during the same period – has priced its monthly data bundles at Sh300 for 1GB, Sh500 for 3GB and Sh1,000 for 6GB, while Telkom Kenya offers 1.5GB for Sh499 and 100GB for Sh8,999.