Kenya: ZTE to install 3G network

Mickhael Ghossein, CEO, Telkom Kenya (Image: file photo)

France Telecom SA’s Kenyan unit awarded a $47 million contract to ZTE Corp. to build a third-generation mobile-phone network that it expects to help double it’s subscriber base by the end of the year. France Telecom owns 51 percent of Telkom Kenya, which trades under the Orange brand name. The remaining shares are held by the Kenyan government.

Kenya’s capital city, Nairobi, as well as Mombasa and Kisumu will benefit from the majority of the 1,500 3G base stations that ZTE will install, Telkom Kenya Ltd. Chief Executive Officer Mickael Ghossein told reporters today. These base stations will be installed during the next two months.

“We expect to double our subscribers from the current 2.3 million active customers by the end of 2011,” Ghossein said.

“We expect data services to be the main revenue drivers going forward and the 3G network will enhance our service delivery through faster downloads,” Ghossein said.

Recent regulatory changes, which forced the mobile telecoms operators to halve the interconnect charges (the rates that operators charge each other to connect voice calls across networks) have led to Kenyan mobile operators relying more on data for revenue. The regulatory changes also led to operators cutting call costs and, in some cases, offering free “off-peak” calls.

Telkom competes with Safaricom Ltd., East Africa’s biggest mobile operator, Airtel Kenya Ltd., a unit of New Delhi-based Bharti Airtel Ltd., and Essar Telecom Kenya Ltd., a subsidiary of Essar Group.

3G networks enable faster data transmission and allow mobile-phone users to download rich content, such as music and video, to their handsets. The system being installed by ZTE will provide download speeds of 21 megabytes per second, Ghossein said. Safaricom, the only other operator of a 3G network in Kenya, offers speeds of as much as 7.2 megabytes per second, according to the company’s website.

Angela Meadon