Subscriber Losses Amidst Tower Dispute

Telkom Kenya, the nation's third-largest telecommunications provider, has witnessed a significant decline in subscribers over the past three months. Following a dispute with its tower partner, American Towers Corporation (ATC), approximately 800,000 subscribers have departed from Telkom's network. By December 2023, the telco's mobile subscriber base plummeted to 1.3 million.

Tower Shutdown Sparks Disagreement

The dispute between Telkom Kenya and ATC escalated when ATC deactivated 246 towers in February 2023 due to unpaid leasing fees. This action exacerbated a disagreement that had been brewing for two years, culminating in a contentious standoff. By October 2023, Telkom Kenya's debt to ATC had surged to KES 7.1 billion ($51.7 million).

Financial Impasse and Demands

Amidst mounting financial pressure, ATC demanded an immediate payment of KES 500 million ($3.6 million) along with a monthly fee of KES 150 million ($1.09 million) to reactivate the towers. However, Telkom Kenya cited financial constraints as a barrier to meeting its debt obligations, prolonging the impasse between the two entities.

Tower Ownership Transition

Telkom Kenya previously owned and managed its towers before ATC's acquisition of 723 towers in 2018. At the time, Telkom anticipated that this move would enhance network quality and reliability, ultimately benefiting its customers. However, the current dispute has disrupted operations and strained customer relations.

ATC's Tower Network Dominance

As of June 2023, ATC Kenya boasts a network of 3,643 towers nationwide, including nine distributed antenna system sites. This extensive tower infrastructure underscores ATC's significant presence in the telecommunications landscape, further complicating Telkom Kenya's predicament.

Telkom Kenya finds itself at a crossroads as it grapples with dwindling subscriber numbers and a protracted dispute with its tower partner, ATC. The resolution of this conflict remains uncertain, leaving Telkom's future prospects uncertain. As the telco seeks to regain its footing, it faces formidable challenges in restoring subscriber confidence and stabilizing its operations amidst a rapidly evolving telecommunications landscape.