AIRTEL FIGHTS GOVERNMENT OVER LICENSE FEES.

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Airtel Kenya Limited headquarter in Nairobi.

BY SAM ALFAN.

Airtel Kenya has asked the court to stop the government from demanding additional license fees.

The mobile telephony company has asked the high court to quash a demand by Communication Authority of Kenya over a Sh2 billion licence fee balance.

Airtel also wants the court to direct that their trading terms be concluded and no further demands should be sent to them by the government.

Senior Counsel Fred Ngatia representing Airtel company told Justice George Odunga that CA had gone silent for two years after Airtel completed paying the licence.

SC Ngatia sais that after the long silence, CA wrote a letter demanding for the money through the National Treasury.

“CA had debts to settle that was why they started demanding for the money almost two years after paying Sh5.4 billion licence fee and the matter,” Ngatia said.

He accused the regulator of seeking a waiver through  the public national treasury which should not be allowed.

In response to the allegations Communication Authority asked the court to dismiss the application by Airtel.

They said that Airtel has to apply for a license renewal regardless of any other parties.

CA added that Airtel was aware of the renewal licence fee as Essar had only one frequency licence.

“CA was only asking for the balance of licence fee but Airtel forwarded a letter with numerous changes and it is not their mandate to set terms and conditions”, the court heard.

The authority further objected to the telephony assumptions of a waiver saying that they were not looking for a waiver and the Treasury Cabinet Secretary  is the one who could waive any new entity, and such waivers can only be granted with authorization through an Act of Parliament.

Last month Aritel accused the regulator of dishonouring the agreement that led to the firm purchasing Yu Mobile by disclosing a demand for $20.025 million (Sh2.06 billion) in spectrum fees after the acquisition.

Airtel insists that the CA had promised to merge its operating licences with the ones it purchased from Yu Mobile in 2014 for the $6.976 million (Sh718 million) it paid to acquire the rival firm.

Airtel claims that its newly-acquired licences are due to expire on January 27, 2025 but shortly after it paid the Sh718 million in December 2014, the CA shifted goalposts and demanded an additional Sh2.06 billion as a condition for renewing its operating permits.

The telecoms operator say it would have abandoned the Yu Mobile deal had the regulator disclosed it would demand separate spectrum fees of Sh2 billion.

But Airtel in court documents said both the spectrum and operating licence are merged under the current licensing regime and that the CA did not disclose that the two had been split while negotiating the Yu mobile deal.

Justice Odunga to deliver the ruling on December 18.

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