Kenyan LTE venture in trouble following frequency band dispute

Kenyan market leader Safaricom is threatening to discontinue its involvement in the construction of an LTE network if the country’s government insists that the deployment uses the 2.6GHz frequency band.

The limited range of this band will make the implementation of a nationwide LTE network prohibitively expensive – a view that Safaricom has expressed previously. The operator is attempting to secure approval to deploy using the 700MHz band, which provides better coverage – particularly within buildings – using fewer base stations.

The operator’s corporate affairs director, Nzioka Waita, said: “We would want to know the frequency band that will be used; if it is not the 700MHz then [the government] may consider our self out of it.” Licences in the 700MHz band are currently held by TV providers.

The Kenyan government is attempting to build an LTE network across the country via a Private Public Partnership (PPP) involving various operators, vendors and broadband providers including Telkom Kenya, Airtel Kenya, Essar Telecom Kenya, MTN Business Kenya, Alcatel-Lucent, Nokia Siemens Networks, Kenya Data Networks and Epesi Technologies.

Safaricom’s exit from the joint venture could stymie the entire operation, as the market-leading operator is one of the few firms involved in the venture that is capable of raising the required amount to invest in an LTE network.

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