Airtel Kenya CEO Prasanta Das Sarma www.businesstoday.co.ke
Airtel Kenya CEO Prasanta Das Sarma. Airtel is dangling a festive season offer to lure more customers to its fold [Photo/Courtesy]

Airtel Kenya chief executive officer Prasanta Das Sarma refused to be dragged into the debate on whether Safaricom is a dominant player in the market and instead said Parliament will decide the fate of the status of the telecommunications sub sector.

While responding to a question at a press briefing on what the Indian-owned telco thought of the Safaricom dominance debate, Airtel Kenya’s CEO on Tuesday said the relevant authorities would make the decision.

“All the industry players have given their views to the Communications Authority as well as to a Parliamentary Committee so I think they are the people who can decide what is right for the industry and for the customers,” Mr. P.D. Sarma said.

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The Airtel Kenya Managing Director added the Bharti-owned mobile phone operator would respond appropriately to whatever decision is taken when it is actually taken.

This comes even after Airtel launched a new default tariff that has slashed call rates by around half of the average market rate to settle at Ksh2 per minute.

Big Bad Safaricom

In recent weeks, debate has intensified on whether Safaricom — which currently holds a near 67% hold on the market share — should be declared a dominant player in the industry.

Being declared dominant would not necessarily be a bad thing for Safaricom, but it would allow the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) to regulate the giant telco’s practices and assess whether they are harmful to the rest of the competition.

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On Monday, Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore told the Parliamentary Committee on Communication, Information and Innovation that the giant telco was not hindering competition. “Thirty million customers have made a conscious decision to come onto Safaricom’s network.”

Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore (extreme left) appears before a Parliamentary Committee on August 6

The Competition Authority of Kenya has also weighed in saying Safaricom should not be punished for its success as there is no evidence it is abusing its dominance. “Safaricom has been progressively losing its market share over the period analysed. This means Safaricom does not possess Significant Market Power (SMP) over any of the markets analysed,” CAK told Parliament.

Currently, Safaricom’s market share lead is followed by Airtel at 28.7% while Telkom Kenya is at 4.6%. A number of telcos have however petitioned Parliamentary intervention to regulate the dominance of Safaricom.

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In May, the CA drafted a proposal seeking to allow Safaricom’s rivals access to its transmission sites and its vast network of mobile money outlets so as to increase competition in the sector. The National Assembly’s ICT Committee is considering whether CA’s proposal has merit and whether any measures should be taken to boost competition.

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