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Business of Tech

Canadian telco Iristel enters Kenyan market

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Kenyans will soon have the option of a new telecommunications company following Canadian telco Iristel's announcement that it is expanding into the East African country. The news comes on the back of a court victory against the country's biggest operator, Safaricom.

Safaricom's dismissed court appeal sought to terminate a contract it signed with Iristel Kenya Limited, a subsidiary of Iristel Canada.

Kenya's Communications and Multimedia Appeals Tribunal struck out the case, which meant that the Canadian telco will now be able to offer Internet-based calls through Safaricom's network.

Safaricom's reason for the legal battle was because it was concerned that Iristel Kenya would allegedly engage in SIM boxing, which it believes is a threat to national security.

SIM boxing is when a person or group of people set up a device that can take up several SIM cards (a SIM box) and use it to complete international calls it receives from the Internet via Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). The calls are then served to the in-country mobile network subscribers as local traffic.

"Iristel's voice service offers an expansive, facilities-based local telephone number coverage and inbound voice origination service that enables over-the-top (OTT) and voice service providers the ability to offer innovative voice and messaging (SMS) services to their business or consumer end users," said Iristel CEO Samer Bishay.

The company will in essence offer Internet-based calling and texting services.

"For this initial rollout of our global expansion, we will provide the capability to purchase Session Initiation Protocol trunks, which can be aggregated with our on-net footprint, and Decentralized Identifiers," Bishay added.

Kenyan expansion

"We're thrilled to launch Iristel's operations in Kenya, an exciting market for our expansion," the Canadian company said in a statement.

It remains to be seen if the company's expansion into Kenya will offer much competition, if any, to the local operators who already offer similar services.

Iristel is entering a market that is dominated by the likes of Safaricom, which launched its commercial 5G in Kenya in October 2022.


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Another key player is Airtel, which invested US$40 million for additional spectrum in Kenya in July 2022, to help accommodate strong data growth across its network.

Telkom Kenya, which is fully owned by the Kenyan government, is another player that the Canadian telco will have to contend with.

According to statistics from market research company Omdia, Safaricom had almost 42.3 million mobile subscribers at the end of September 2022. It was followed by Airtel Kenya with 17.4 million subscribers. Telkom Kenya remained well back in third place with about 3.6 million mobile customers in the third quarter of 2022. Jamii Telecommunications was fourth with just 272,000 subscribers.

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*Top image source: Image by www.slon.pics on Freepik

Matshepo Sehloho, Associate Editor, Connecting Africa

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