Kenyans reduce mobile calls as charges increase

A man making a phone call.

A man making a phone call. Domestic mobile voice traffic fell substantially in the quarter to March as more Kenyans cut use on increased excise duty charges from 15 per cent to 20 per cent.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Domestic mobile voice traffic fell substantially in the quarter to March as more Kenyans cut use on increased excise duty charges from 15 per cent to 20 per cent.

Fresh data by the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) shows that domestic mobile voice traffic, both on-net, and off-net, fell between January 1 and March 31 by 7.7 per cent and 1.4 per cent, respectively.

Various promotions

“This is mainly attributed to the conclusion of promotions that were running during the previous quarter,” the regulator said.

“Similarly, mobile to fixed traffic continued to dwindle owing to the declining number of fixed network subscriptions.” 

In the quarter to March, mobile users spent 1.6 minutes on on-net calls and a minute on off net calls on average. This was a drop compared to the previous quarter when they spent 1.7 minutes on on-net calls and 1.2 minutes on off-net calls, partly buoyed by promotional rates by telcos.

Calling rates have become punitive for many mobile phone users in Kenya since last year after the State imposed a higher tax through the Finance Act, 2020, in a bid to collect at least Sh8 billion in extra revenues from Safaricom, Airtel, and Telkom Kenya.

The charge was passed on to consumers, with Airtel increasing the cost of making calls to Sh2.78 per minute and Safaricom to Sh4.87 per minute for peak time from Sh4.30.

The impact of the reviewed call and data costs has hit consumers with many of them reducing the length of time spent talking on their phones.

This has also hit collections from levies imposed on mobile services. Data by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) showed that airtime and call data tax collections fell by 19.8 per cent or Sh7.4 billion last year due to reduced use following increased excise duty.

SIM registration

The taxman collected Sh29.8 billion last year—a drop from Sh37.2 billion in 2020, KNBS said.

The CA data further showed that as of March 31, the number of active mobile (SIM) subscriptions stood at 64.9 million from 65.1 million subscriptions recorded by the end of December 2021, representing a mobile penetration rate of 131.4 per cent.

“The decline in SIM subscriptions is partly attributed to the ongoing SIM registration exercise during which a number of SIM cards have been deactivated,” the regulator said.


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