So far I was just commenting on the licensing aspects, but will certainly also comment on the shared spectrum framework when that arises.
I agree with your comments. Spectrum is priced too highly. It is priced out of reach for many who could provide telecoms services, and the price of spectrum is reflected in the cost that consumers pay directly (and indirectly, in that in some areas the telcos wonâ€™t invest in, having already invested so much in spectrum). Tier 1 licensees are making good use of their spectrum, but many tier 2 or tier 3 (or other spectrum holders such as in government) may not have many sites, so indeed, their spectrum is being under-used.
I am not against community networks, but I am a realist in that they wonâ€™t make a massive difference since a) so many issues are demand-side, not supply-side, as my other emails explain; and b) there are so many costs to running a network; and c) existing providers are operating in a competitive market and most are not making excessive profits (or are actually loss-making) so it is hard to say the existing market has many problems that a community network could resolve. I am not saying they cannot try, they should be encouraged, but community networks in of themselves may not make a big difference to the digital divide. Other solutions, such as spectrum pricing, VAT etc etc could have a big difference.
The reality is that the CA makes 8.5bn KES a year in license fees and remits 4.7bn KES to Treasury to be spent on whatever treasury wants. Let alone the money (tens of billions) that treasury collects in VAT on devices, excise duty on airtime and data and many other taxes.
From: Barrack Otieno [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Friday, May 28, 2021 11:55 AM
To: KICTAnet ICT Policy Discussions <email@example.com>
Cc: Adam Lane <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: [kictanet] Licensing and Shared Spectrum Framework for Community Networks for Kenya online discussion
I beg to respectfully differ with you on the purpose of the framework. This effort by the Communications Authority has broken the glass ceiling on Spectrum licensing. Through this many more people will get to understand the value of spectrum which will in return encourage better usage and deployment which will be beneficial to the entire ICT ecosystem in the country. It is a fact that ICTs have widened the divide between the haves and have nots and community networks are one of the ways aimed at shortening this divide. Community Networks will definitely spur innovation at local community level. This may include ideas that will eventually lead to manufacture or assembly of local network equipment as we saw with the spread of TV where aerials would be manufactured locally which enabled many households to own television sets. By the way, I am sure majority of the senior listers here must have encountered their first TV sets when they were 10 years old, which is a testament of the havoc the digital divide can cause. Let us not view community networks purely from commercial lenses.
The framework is a positive step. Though Kenya has some of the best connectivity on the content, the CA has estimated that around 4% of the population do not have broadband network coverage and the business models of providing it in those areas are difficult (expensive to provide, few users, users have low incomes etc). Whether Community Networks are able to provide networks in those circumstances and at scale may be unclear but they should certainly be given a chance.
I also want to commend the report for noting the critical issue of demand-side aspects of broadband usage (awareness, skills, access to devices, relevant local content etc). Addressing those issues are beyond the scope of the regulatory framework which is for licensing, but certainly it is good to note that Community Networks might be more willing to invest in those areas, and thus benefit from having more users.
Since the stated purpose of the framework is to provide network coverage where it does not exist, my suggestion would be that Community Networks should certainly be given a chance in those un-served areas, and in those areas (88 sub-locations with 0 coverage, 239 sub-locations with <50% coverage for example) the CA needs to provide some efforts to reduce the costs of providing networks, including lower licensing fees, and lower spectrum costs. This should be for any operator, whether a community network, ISP or MNO. Since currently it is difficult for community networks to register, then certainly it is a good idea to make it easier for them to register and try to build a viable network.
However it is strange that the suggested size is of â€œsub-countyâ€ rather than sub-location or ward; and strange that there is no limitation on location such as â€œno existing network coverageâ€. I would recommend a limitation on the size to be much smaller than sub-county, and more importantly, I would recommend a limitation on the community network to operate in areas that are un-served by other network providers (these areas are now well known following the Access Gaps Study this year).
The way the current framework is written would allow community networks to operate in sub-counties of Nairobi or any other cities/towns, and be in direct competition to MNOs and ISPs, which I donâ€™t believe is the purpose of the framework.
Should the purpose of the framework be to address affordability issues of broadband (i.e. if affordability is one barrier of broadband usage along with devices access, skills, awareness, content, power etc), then I believe a different regulatory strategy could be developed to address this. This framework for community networks should be limited to areas that are un-served only.
From: kictanet [mailto:kictanet-bounces+adam.lane
Sent: Thursday, May 27, 2021 9:28 AM
To: Adam Lane <email@example.com<mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org>>
Cc: Mwendwa Kivuva <Kivuva@transworldafrica.com<mailto:Kivuva@transworldafrica.com>>
Subject: [kictanet] Licensing and Shared Spectrum Framework for Community Networks for Kenya online discussion
As we had indicated, today we will have a discussion on the Licensing and Shared Spectrum Framework for Community Networks for Kenya that was issued by the Communications Authority of Kenya, available for direct download here<ca.go.ke/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/Licensing-and-Shared-Spectrum-Framework-for-Community-Networks-May-2021.docx.pdf>.
Today, we will discuss the licensing aspect of the community networks. and tomorrow about the shared spectrum framework.
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
3. Geographical coverage of a CNSP will be a sub-county boundary
4. License period of 10years 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
– What are your comments on the proposed licensing framework?
– What gaps have you identified in the proposed licensing framework?
– How would you recommend addressing the identified gaps?
– What recommendations do you have for CA to improve entry into the telecommunications market in Kenya?
Looking forward to an engaging discussion.
Mwendwa Kivuva, Nairobi, Kenya
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