Airtel Kenya has received a major boost after the High Court ruled to compel the industry regulator, Communications Authority (CA) to grant its' license as per the approved tripartite Yu Mobile sale agreements incorporating Airtel, Essar and Safaricom.
Airtel has welcomed the ruling saying "we feel that our original stand has been acknowledged and that we have acted within afforded legal boundaries and applicable provisions of the KICA law"
The ruling by Justice George Odunga provides a major boost to the industry as a whole and sends the right signals to international investors, added Airtel.
The ruling is likely to be received differently by other players especially Safaricom. "So Safaricom must pay license fees while others conveniently arrange with the courts to waive their obligations? What if Safaricom uses the new precedent to have their regulatory fees waived next time?" posed an ICT consultant who works for the sector and who demanded strict anonymity so as not to jeopardise his interests.
"The court ruling could also move to take away the independence of the CA. The Authority lost the case by design. It was straight forward. The ruling is also likely to be used against CA", added the consultant.
CA had told the High Court that Airtel was operating at its mercy since its frequency spectrum licence had expired on January 27, 2015 and it was to be only be renewed when it paid Sh2.1 billion fee.
Airtel sued the CA in August, claiming that the regulator had promised to merge its licences with those it had purchased from Yu Mobile in 2014 for Sh718 million and that the CA later shifted goalposts by demanding an additional Sh2.1 billion fee for frequency spectrum.
Airtel and Safaricom acquired Yu Mobile’s assets in a joint buyout deal worth Sh12.3 billion.