Telecommunications service provider, Airtel Kenya, has accused Competition Authority of Kenya (CAK) for ignoring market dominance by Safaricom.
In submissions to the Senate Committee on Information and Technology, the telco claims that the regulator’s indecision has made it difficult for the company to compete commercially in the sector.
Airtel said Safaricom’s 64 per cent market share in the telecommunications market has thwarted competition and reduced options available to consumers.
“There has been no dispute as to the status of Safaricom as regards its dominance status and significant market power. However, there has been reluctance in declaring Safaricom dominant in the retail mobile market and the retail mobile money market,” Airtel said.
“Declaring Safaricom dominant is the first step to ensuring market competitiveness, which we believe has been the sticking point and key barrier in taking any steps to rectify any market anomalies in Kenya,” he added.
The telco company argued that Safaricom has prevented fair competition to take hold in the ICT sector, however, said there is an opportunity of creating a level playing field that will lead to a more competitive market and corresponding acceleration of market development and GDP growth.
Additionally, it also blamed the telecoms regulator for skewed allocation of mobile spectrum in favour of Safaricom and failure to reduce the fees that mobile phone operators charge each other for interconnecting calls.
The company added that a notion has been perpetuated that declaring Safaricom a dominant player is punishing success, which “in our view is blatantly myopic.”
It said regulation in the sector is needed because uneven playing field conditions slow the pace of investment in the industry and impede progress towards expanding the economy and alleviation of poverty in the general population.
“Regulation is known to attract investment in the sector thereby creating competition from new players,” the company said.
“Regulation guarantees customers the right of choice, accessibility, affordability and quality of service.”
The Kenya Private Sector Alliance (Kepsa), which also made submissions to the committee, said the government should offer a variety of payment platforms to allow consumer choice.
“Likoni Ferry is a good example of those who only allow payments by M-Pesa, without allowing payments from cash, debit/credit cards and other Kenyan mobile money providers,” Kepsa said.
According to the Communications Authority, Safaricom has the biggest share of the Kenya mobile telecommunication market at 64 per cent, Airtel (27 per cent), Telkom Kenya (6 per cent) and others (3 per cent) as at December 2020.
Further, Airtel added that spectrum allocation is skewed towards the dominant player.
According to them, the dominant player holds 32.5 MHz more spectrum than Airtel and 45MHz more spectrum than Telkom.
“Despite investing heavily in the network to improve customer experience, we continue to grapple with lack of spectrum, especially in 4G which as advised by CA is unavailable, yet the dominant player holds excessive spectrum,” stated the telco company.