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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Kiptiness vs Wangusi for CCK's top job

The highly political and precarious position of the Director-General of the Communications Commission of Kenya is set to be filled after acting DG Francis Wangusi, CCK legal head John Omo and former CCK and Telkom Kenya lawyer Stephen Kiptiness were all short-listed for the job.

The previous CCK boss Charles Njoroge left in acrimonious circumstances after falling out with the board. It is suspected that powerful interests both in the telecommunications industry and in the Media conspired to see his removal for threatening their interests.

The post will be filled at a time when serious issues have to be addressed:

One, digital migration is about to take place and the billions at stake have seen the war over customers rise to a whole new level - expected to even go higher as Multichoice and Startimes Digital rush to roll out services across the country.

Simple mathematics - we have about 4million TV sets in this country. Each of those, theoretically, should have Digital set top box.

Set top boxes go for anywhere from Sh3000 - 7000. Working with the lower figure, 3000 by 4million sets....You get the picture.

Related, is the issue of frequencies - Njoroge fought with broadcasters because he sought to repossess frequencies that were issued under dubious circumstances in the first place and that media owners wanted to retain control of upon digital migration.

You see, one frequency yields 18 digital channels. The likes of Royal Media, Radio Africa and Nation Media Group want to retain control of these channels when they migrate but authorities have insisted that everyone will be allocated channels according to the content they can produce. A battle royale awaits the potential DG here.

Elections are also coming up and certain regulations, including those covering hate speech, the internet and social media are likely to be pushed so again the DG has his work cut out for him.

Not to mention, the issue of switching off bogus handsets and blocking unregistered SIM cards is also underway and again powerful interests will seek to sway the process.

Then the mother of them all, the issue of Mobile Termination Rates (MTRs). The last time CCK brought them down, Airtel unleashed a price war on the market that turned the market upside down and forced all other operators to bring their prices down too.

CCK has been seeking to bring these MTRs down further but telcos notably Safaricom and Orange have been against the idea.

That being said, who stands the best chance to be DG?

Francis Wangusi
Francis Wangusi (pictured right) has the inside lane - He has already been acting, and has, at least till now, not ruffled any feathers.

He is likely to be seen as safe and most likely lobbyists will push Information minister Samuel Poghisio, to appoint him.

John Omo who last time lost out to Charles Njoroge is on the short list but one would think he would have been chosen to act in Njoroge's absence but he was not. That is telling.

Stephen Kiptiness, is as sharp as they come, and is a look-you-in-the-eye straight forward kind of guy. He knows his stuff but the fact that he has been away from CCK for some time might work against him.

He was the Legal Head at Telkom Kenya and would probably make the best DG from the country's perspective.

As an outsider some things Kiptiness could probably be relied on to do is to come up with a proper spectrum allocation policy, at TKL he always railed against CCK for dragging its feet on this.

He could possibly come down hard on Safaricom being one of the TKL brass who believed that Safaricom rode on TKL's infrastructure to become what it became. But on the other hand, TKL and Safaricom had come to agree on some things, like the need to halt the reduction in MTRs.

All said, it is most likely Wangusi will take the job. Kiptiness could well be a future DG.

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