Operators switch off 1m phone users

What you need to know:

  • Safaricom tops list with 800,000, followed by yuMobile at 290,000 and Orange 120,000

Mobile operators had by Friday switched off more than 1.2 million unregistered Sim cards despite the government’s failure to gazette the regulations guiding the exercise.

In a statement to newsrooms on Friday, the Communications Commission of Kenya said the four local mobile networks had disconnected a total of 1,280,840 unregistered Sim cards five days after the deadline.

“The verification exercise is quite involving as the mobile operators have to update data received from dealers and agents countrywide to ensure that no registered mobile line is suspended from service,” CCK director general Francis Wangusi said.

The government’s failure yesterday to publish the regulations contained in the Miscellaneous Amendment Act on the Kenya Information and Communications Act in the official Kenya Gazette added to the confusion surrounding the exercise.

The Act requires all mobile operators to keep updated records of their customers, part of State efforts to curb the rise of crime associated with using mobile phones, but the finer details of the process and penalty for non-compliance were to be contained in the yet to be gazetted regulations.

Information permanent secretary Bitange Ndemo said on Wednesday that the regulations had already been passed to the Attorney-General to gazette.

On Friday, the regulator said the regulations would be published in a special gazette notice but that had not been done by close of business.

Safaricom reported disconnecting 800,000 while Airtel Kenya said it had switched off 70,830 unregistered Sim cards. yuMobile and Telkom Orange suspended 290,000 and 120,010 unregistered lines respectively.

As of Monday, over 6.3 million Sim cards were yet to be registered. CCK yesterday said that an additional 751,504 Sim cards were registered.

Operators said they were experiencing logistics problems as some of their registration data had to be ferried by road from remote parts of the country.

There has also been confusion over whether a registered mobile money customer would need to register their Sim card afresh. While operators insist that all users of mobile money platforms are registered, some cases were reported where M-Pesa customers were disconnected.

However, the Consumer Federation of Kenya (Cofek) said it was yet to receive complaints from consumers.

“They have done a lot of publicity on this exercise so we are satisfied by the level of awareness among consumers,” Cofek secretary-general Steve Mutoro said in an interview.