The draft Kenya Information and Communications Act (Interconnection) Regulations form part of a series of features highlighting the salient details of the four draft regulations published by the Ministry of ICT.
Why is it important
At its core, the draft Interconnection Regulations have been developed to enhance connectivity in the country and competition in the telecommunications service industry.
Interconnections in the context of the regulations are physical and logical linkings of telecommunication networks used by the same or different service licensees. The linkings allow the users of one telecom licensee to communicate with users of the same or another licensee, or to access services provided by another licensee;
Therefore, the regulations primarily seek to ensure end-to-end connectivity for all customers regardless of their telecom provider and to establish interoperability of services to all telecommunication customers in Kenya regardless of network operator.
Who does it affect
The regulations govern the relationship between providers of a telecom service who are required to provide interconnection services to other telecommunications licensees.
Points of interconnection are mutually agreed linkings where the telecommunication systems or apparatus of a telecom provider and another telecom licensee intersect. Interconnections can be used to facilitate the exchange of traffic between local access providers or mobile cellular communication service providers.
Principles of Interconnection
To guide the parties to an interconnection agreement, the regulations identify the following Interconnection Principles:
- Non-discrimination & Transparency: Where there are similar conditions and similar circumstances, interconnection licensees will be required to provide interconnections on a non-discriminatory basis. This includes ensuring that rates charged do not vary on the basis of the class of customers to be served, availing all necessary information to all potential interconnecting licensees, and interconnection facilities or systems and information of the same quality are available to all licensees.
- Efficient and Seamless Service: Transmissions of telecom services across and within interconnected systems should be seamless to both the sending party and the party receiving the information.
- Ensuring Interoperability: Interconnected providers will be expected to provide six months notice to their interconnecting licensee of any planned changes to its telecom system that may materially impact the telecom services of the licensee.
- Responsibility to Customers: Ensuring that customers of interconnecting licensees receive the same treatment as all other users of the interconnection point. Furthermore, the parties to an interconnection agreement shall ensure that any modification, suspension or termination of the agreement does not adversely affect customers.
- Confidentiality: Confidential information necessary for an interconnection agreement, or business information generated by the telecoms system of a party as a result of interconnection, cannot be disclosed to any entity except for the Communications Authority (CA), as necessary.
Dominant Interconnection Providers
Cognizant of the state of telecommunications infrastructure ownership and management in Kenya, the draft Regulations have incorporated the following safeguards to ensure no abuse of dominance by telecom interconnection providers:
- Require dominant providers to adhere to the principle of non-discrimination.
- A dominant interconnection provider is obligated to determine the interconnection charges based on objective criterion, and to observe the principles of transparency and cost orientation. Failure to comply will result in the CA requesting the interconnection provider to adjust the charges, or risk the imposition of a default interconnection charge by the CA.
- The CA can order a dominant interconnection provider to submit a proposed interconnection offer for review and approval within three months after the issuance of the order.
- To prevent an interconnecting licensee from paying for unnecessary interconnection networks and facilities, dominant interconnection providers are required to unbundle their services.
- If the CA determines there is an abuse of dominance, the interconnection agreement can be wholly or partially invalidated, and the interconnection provider can be ordered to desist, change its conduct or be compelled to adopt a particular conduct.
Role of the Communication Authority
As the key regulator of the telecommunications industry, the draft interconnection Regulations have empowered the CA to perform the following duties in respect of interconnections:
- Facilitate and intervene in the negotiation of interconnection agreements where no agreement has been reached within six weeks of the commencement of the negotiations;
- Review interconnection agreements to ensure they conform with the Act, Regulations and any guidelines on interconnection of telecommunications networks; and
- Investigations of any contravention of laws, guidelines or interconnection agreements. Penalties for the contravention of the draft regulations have not been prescribed and have been left to the discretion of the CA.