The Airtel-Telkom merger train has long left the station, slowly but steadily moving towards its destination where it will be fully molded and actualized.
As the train meanders its way up and down the hills of Kenya’s telecommunications sector, a lot has been said; some genuine concerns and some, just unfounded truths that hold no water at all.
As part of the passenger on this train, I also have some genuine concerns as well as recommendations to the two drivers, who will soon become one, on what I feel they should do to always have me, as the consumer on board.
The little bird in the street has always brought in the Safaricom equation whenever the issue of Airtel-Telkom merger pops up. I agree with the little bird. We cannot discuss Kenya’s telecommunications sector without bringing Safaricom in.
The truth is, Safaricom prides itself in providing services that have been described as “quality” in-network strength, calls, data, SMSs and above all, M-Pesa. Using Safaricom as the SI unit, the Airtel-Telkom merger has quite some work to do to catch up with Safaricom.
The question many people are asking is what is going to happen to mobile money platforms of Airtel and Telkom? Telkom has T-Kash while Airtel has Airtel Money. What is going to happen? Are they going to remain independent?
For Airtel-Telkom to beat M-Pesa, they need to come together and form an alternative large force in the mobile money sector. They need to spread their corporate colors in the form of agents for their mobile money across the country. A great disadvantage for both Airtel and Telkom for their mobile money has been inadequate agents across the country.
For over 10 years, Kenya has led 20 other nations in financial inclusion, thanks to the robust mobile money platforms. Airtel-Telkom should not let this fire die. They should enhance their platforms, spread them across the country and stamp their authority.
After the merger, Airtel-Telkom will have an equal spectrum as that of Safaricom. According to the Communications Authority, there is still some more spectrum available in case one of the players wants to buy. At the moment, the two players, Safaricom and Airtel and Telkom combined, are on the same level ground in terms of the spectrum.
Airtel-Telkom should take this opportunity to expand and strengthen its network coverage. Let them put up infrastructure that will ensure that their network is stable across the country and that their customers will be assured of clear and stable services.
For instance, on the Spectrum of 900 (2G) for instance, Safaricom controls 17.5. Airtel and Telkom Kenya control 10 and 7.5 each. In the merger, Airtel-Telkom with will have a combined force of 17.5, same as Safaricom.
On the 1800 (2G) Spectrum, Safaricom enjoys 30 while Airtel and Telkom have 10 each. In the merger, Airtel-Telkom will have 20, only 10 less than Safaricom. Note that from Safaricom’s 30, 20 was obtained from Bell Western (10) and Essar (10).
Within the 2100 (3G) Spectrum, Safaricom currently has 20 while Airtel and Telkom have 10 each. After the bond, the two (Airtel and Telkom) will have 20, the same as Safaricom.
The 800 (4G) Spectrum makes things interesting because currently, Safaricom has 10 while both Airtel and Telkom have 20 overall. In total, Safaricom will have a combined Spectrum of 77.5. The merged Airtel-Telkom entity will also have the same 77.5.
Comparing call rates between Telkom and Safaricom, and Airtel and Safaricom, Airtel and Telkom have relatively low call rates. They should continue with the affordable call rates even after the merger and make it both available and sustainable.
Kenya is a browsing nation. Data bundles are what Kenyans need at the moment. It is also true that data bundles from both Airtel and Telkom are relatively affordable compared to other players. What they need goes back to have strong structures that will make their data reliable.