264,000 mobile phones switched off over SIM registration, says Chiloba

Ezra Chiloba

Communications Authority (CA) of Kenya Director General Ezra Chiloba. 

Photo credit: Francis Nderitu | Nation Media Group

The Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) has instructed mobile network operators to deny service to millions of phone subscribers who have not registered their SIM cards following the lapse last week of the deadline for registration.

CA says telcos have 60 days to ensure all their mobile subscribers have registered their SIM cards and instructed them to roll out tough measures including deactivation of lines to enforce compliance.

It said the services to be affected by deactivation include voice, SMS, data and mobile banking services.

“For the avoidance of doubt, the 60 days is not an extension but a period for the mobile operators to take certain actions including denial of service to prompt further compliance. These steps include graduated denial of service to SIM card holders not duly registered and eventual deactivation,” said CA. 

Extended deadline

The communications regulator in April extended the deadline for SIM card registration by six months to allow millions of users to comply with the directive that is aimed at weeding out fraudsters and other criminals from subscriber databases held by the telcos.

The deadline lapsed on Saturday, but millions of subscribers had yet to register their lines.

However, Kenyans on Sunday took to social media to protest the deactivation of their lines by some of the telcos after the Saturday deadline lapsed.

“All the mobile operators were by the midnight of October 15, 2022 expected to ensure that all subscribers had updated their SIM card registration details in line with the law. Taking into account the improved level of performance so far, operators are directed to take additional steps to ensure 100 per cent compliance in the next 60 days,” said CA in a statement on Monday.

The authority said 93 per cent of Safaricom’s 42.53 million subscribers had registered their SIM cards ahead of the deadline, marking it out as having the best compliance rate among the three major mobile operators.

It said that Airtel Kenya, which has some 17.04 million subscribers, had achieved a compliance rate of 81.2 per cent and revealed that it is reviewing the situation of Telkom Kenya, which has registered the lowest compliance rate. The company has 3.42 million subscribers.

Compliance audits

CA said it will do audits to check the compliance of the telcos who will be subjected to hefty fines if found uncompliant with the directive.

“Any mobile operator found non-compliant shall be liable to regulatory measures including a penalty of up to 0.5 per cent of their annual gross turnover,” said CA.

The regulator said that the SIM card registration is key to protecting consumers of telecommunication services and enhancing confidence in the use of ICTs which are now at the centre of the country’s digital transformation agenda.

And while speaking in Naivasha on Monday during a cybersecurity workshop, CA Director-General Ezra Chiloba said over 264,000 mobile phone users were deregistered between February and June for failing to list their SIM cards.

He added that the agency is verifying whether the number had reached 500,000, citing reports in some quarters.

“This window of between October 15 and the end of next week, we shall be able to narrow down to know the exact figures,” he said.

“We shall also be asking service providers what they have done to people who were supposed to register and they have not. The general principle is that you cannot have an active SIM card that is not duly registered,” he added.

Address concerns

He explained that subscribers who were genuinely unable to register will have their concerns addressed, adding that if they were crooks, the agency will ensure they are permanently disconnected from the network.

“Verification of unregistered numbers is ongoing, a significant move that will guarantee that the mobile services can be trusted in Kenya,” he said. 

He warned the agency will “go for the operators” in cases of non-compliance, reminding them that they have a critical role to play in ensuring their subscribers are fully compliant.

He added that the agency wants 100 per cent compliance, assuring Kenyans that only inactive lines will be disconnected

“For those known to use SIM cards without registering, the options are many. Some include denying them services in a more graduated way … You might be able to receive calls but cannot make a call,” Mr Chiloba clarified.


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