Safaricom, the market leader, topped the list after it paid a fine of Sh157 million while Airtel and Telkom Kenya paid a combined penalty of Sh33 million.
All telecom operators have failed to meet quality standards set by the Communications Authority for three years-running, prompting the regulator to raise the fines associated with poor services.
Until last year, telecom firms paid a flat fee of Sh500,000 for not meeting the Quality of Service (QoS) thresholds. The new regime levies a hefty fine of 0.1 per cent of gross annual turnover.
Safaricom maintains objections to the manner in which the regulator assesses quality of service.
“It should be noted that we, along with other Kenyan mobile network operators, have expressed concerns regarding the QoS measures used by the CA,” said Safaricom in its Sustainability Report released on Tuesday.
The CA sets standards for telecom services along eight key indicators, focused on the voice side of the businesses. In the 2014/2015 QoS survey, Safaricom had met the 80 per cent quality benchmark on all but three of these indicators — completed calls, call set up rate and blocked calls.
But the company has over the past few years engaged a consultant to independently assess its network quality.
The latest survey from the firm, P3 Communications, indicates that Safaricom is the best network in the country on all but one indicator— dropped calls.
“We continue to work with CA but sometimes we don’t agree with them,” said Safaricom chief executive Bob Collymore.
The CA is currently undertaking a review of the framework within which it carries out QoS surveys In response to changes in the telecommunications industry and to pressure from stakeholders,.
Consultations on new draft regulations closed in September. These regulations would see the CA expand its purview into assessing the quality of standards for data and SMS services. It will also include customer input.
Monthly reports from telecom operators on their network performance will be used to address irregularities between the figures provided by CA and internal figures generates by the firms.
“In the recent times the marketplace has witnessed rapid changes in terms of emergence and adoption of new technologies and services necessitating a review of the QoS assessment framework,” said the CA in a statement.
Sector statistics show that Internet penetration stood at 85.3 per cent in the quarter to June 2016. On the other hand, the number of SMS sent in the same period almost doubled to 11.6 billion.
The new framework will be piloted next year. It will pull in Internet service providers like AccessKenya and Liquid Telecom that have previously been left out in the quality of service studies.
In its more punitive regulations, Kenya is following in the footsteps of other countries in the region.
In 2011, Rwandatel’s telecom licence was revoked for poor service. MTN faced a $7.4 million fine in Nigeria in 2012. More recently MTN has agreed to pay $1.7 billion as a fine for failing to adhere to industry regulations on SIM card registrations in Nigeria.
Trying to address subscriber concerns, Safaricom introduced a programme that would pay subscribers for dropped calls earlier this year. The Safaricom Guarantee service refunds customers for up to one minute of talk time for dropped calls within the telecom’s network.
An internal assessment indicates overall improvement in customer satisfaction with voice and data services. However, Safaricom’s business clients showed falling satisfaction with services with particular concern over the quality of fixed data.
Customer satisfaction within this market segment fell nine per cent.
“The reason why it declined was because of customer’s unhappiness in the fixed data space,” said Mr Collymore.