British mobile network Lycamobile granted Kenyan license


British firm Lycamobile is one of the two latest entrants into the Kenyan telecommunications market after they were granted a licence by the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) to operate a mobile virtual network.

Lycamobile Kenya is owned by a UK firm of a similar name which has a presence in 21 countries, targeting mainly diaspora communities that want to make cheap international calls.

Founded by British-Sri-Lankan tycoon, Subaskaran Allirajah, CA records show that although Lycamobile UK has had a licence to operate in Kenya since November 2015, it is yet to launch operations.

“Launching an MVNO in a new territory is a long and complicated process, with a number of factors involved. Whilst we have made great strides already, there are still a few stages left to finalise before we can announce the launch of our services in Kenya.” – Lycamobile statement

While the MVNO permits allow Lycamobile to provide voice, data and mobile money services to Kenyans, the company do not have their own infrastructure and instead have to ‘piggyback’ on Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) Safaricom, Airtel and Telkom Kenya.

“We see the mobile virtual network operator (MVNOs) as providing competition in the market. They come in and offer a bigger variety of services and prices.” – CA Director General Francis Wangusi

Kenya would be the British firm’s first foray into Sub-Saharan Africa having previously concentrating the majority of its activity on Western Europe.

Speaking about its plans for Kenya, the company said that it will offer low-cost national and international calls, texts and data.

One hurdle a new company needs to overcome is the need to negotiate commercial contracts to allow their subscribers to call other networks, which could lead to a delay in launching.

Along with Lycamobile, Homeland Group have also been issued a licence, bringing the number of MVNOs operating in the Kenyan market to 5.