Telkom Kenya and American Towers Corporation Feud Raises Concerns Over National Security


In a dispute stemming from an acquisition made five years ago, Telkom Kenya finds itself embroiled in a conflict with American Towers Corporation (ATC), a situation that has drawn the attention of the Kenyan Senate due to its potential threat to the country’s security infrastructure, Business Daily reported.

According to the report, “The clash between the two telecommunications giants recently escalated to the point of causing widespread disruption of Telkom’s network services throughout the nation.”

It is noted that documents presented before the Senate Committee on Information and Technology unveiled a series of disagreements and actions that have brought the issue to the forefront of national concern.

“The controversy revolves around ATC’s purchase of 715 towers from Telkom Kenya half a decade ago, a transaction that was valued at $155 million,” BD reported. 

ATC has accused Telkom Kenya of violating the terms of the tower sale and leaseback agreement by neglecting to settle a substantial debt of Sh4 billion that the American company claims is owed to them. 

Despite allegations of Telkom Kenya failing to uphold its end of the bargain, ATC has maintained its role in maintaining and servicing the towers.

ATC Kenya’s Chief Executive, Thomas Sonesson addressed the Senate Committee on ICT, outlining the corporation’s grievance and the subsequent actions taken. 

ATC Kenya contends that its attempts to recover the owed amount through various notices to Telkom Kenya remained unanswered. 

Consequently, the American company chose to cease covering the electricity costs associated with the masts due to the debt. 

This eventually culminated in ATC Kenya disabling a significant portion of its base masts dispersed across the country.

In response to ATC’s actions, Telkom Kenya reportedly dispatched law enforcement personnel to numerous mast sites, preventing ATC Kenya representatives from accessing the locations. 

“This countermeasure led to a service disruption, affecting connectivity, mobile money transfers, and voice communications for various clients. Among the affected parties are Mobile Network Operators (MNOs), Internet Service Providers (ISPs), and broadcasters, which has in turn hindered the government’s digital transformation initiatives.”

During the Senate hearing, the implications of the feud on national security were stressed by both sides. 

ICT Cabinet Secretary Eliud Owalo expressed concern over the potential compromise of critical security information, as Telkom Kenya plays a pivotal role in transmitting such data. 

This concern is magnified by the fact that Telkom Kenya manages essential communications services for numerous government entities, including the Office of the President, the State House, government data centres, the Ministry of Interior, the General Service Unit, the Department of Defense’s restricted communication networks, and other vital state functions.

Efforts by the Kenyan government to mediate the conflict between Telkom Kenya and ATC have encountered obstacles, as pointed out by Broadcasting PS Edward Kisiang’ani. 

While Telkom Kenya positions itself as a private company, the government owns a significant 60% share through Helios. 

This situation has prompted discussions about the potential risks of privatizing security infrastructure and the necessity of ensuring that the country’s security remains uncompromised.