Safaricom’s call to block Canadian rival rejected

Safaricom headquarters

Safaricom PLC headquarters in Westlands, Nairobi.

Photo credit: Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Safaricom had sought to cancel the contract on allegations that Iristel Kenya will engage in SIM boxing.
  • SIM boxing is about international calls being routed through local numbers, bypassing the international rates.

Safaricom has lost an appeal in which it sought to block a Canadian rival from connecting to its network citing risks of illegal international calls routed through local numbers.

In an application to the Communications and Multimedia Appeals Tribunal, Safaricom wanted Iristel Kenya Limited blocked from accessing its network despite an agreement signed between the two rivals.

Safaricom argued that the Canadian rival’s shareholding was entirely foreign and that it didn’t have an existing customer base in its network, nor did it indicate the product it would offer.

It also claimed Iristel might engage in sim boxing, which could endanger national security. 

Sim boxing is about international calls being routed through local numbers, bypassing the international rates and often undercutting prices charged by local mobile operators.

In response, Iristel rejected Safaricom’s claims, saying, the Communication Authority of Kenya (CA) had inspected its facilities and its business plan and was satisfied that the services it intended to offer were within its licence.

Renege on deal

The Canadian firm further said it was already interconnected with other operators in Kenya and none of them had raised concerns or issues such as those alleged by Safaricom.

In its ruling, the tribunal faulted Safaricom for seeking to renege on a deal with Iristel.

“Having signed the agreement, the appeal has been overtaken by events, and parties can therefore only be bound by the terms of the agreement. If the appellant would find that there is any breach of the agreement, then it can invoke the relevant provisions as per the agreement. This tribunal cannot delve into the terms of the particular agreement,” the tribunal said.

Only months ago, the tribunal ruled that Safaricom has a right to block illegal international calls routed through local numbers, handing the giant telco victory in a long-drawn feud with two smaller rivals.

The tribunal threw out an appeal by Elige Communications Ltd, which sought to overturn a CA ruling in favour of Safaricom.

Another small telco, Geonet Communications was also caught in the row because some of the Elige customers allegedly made calls through its calling cards. 

CA had ruled that the Safaricom rivals were required to reveal the location of their customers to pay the required costs of transmitting international calls to local mobile providers.