800,000 to be cut from phone service


Communications Commission of Kenya director general Francis Wangusi.

What you need to know:

  • Move is aimed at combating illegal trade in counterfeits

More than 800,000 Kenyans will on Monday be cut off from communication in a mobile phone shutdown that ends Monday afternoon.

The switch-off of fake phones, which all the four operators confirmed, follows a directive from the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) that seeks to combat illegal trade, infringement of intellectual property rights and security threats.

CCK director-general Francis Wangusi was categorical that the shutdown, which had been postponed three times before, would be effected at midnight (on September 30). (READ: Telcom firms to turn off fake phones)

“We wish to categorically state here and now that there shall be no further extension of the deadline,” said Mr Wangusi.

The switch-off, which also targets unregistered Sim cards, is expected to affect the mobile phone money transfer service, resulting in loss of revenue and inconvenience to users.

CCK has, however, set a budget to meet the costs incurred by operators in effecting the switch-off, though the consumers will not be compensated.   

Safaricom, which has the largest number of fake handsets owing to its subscriber base, will switch off an estimated 670,000 fake handsets in 15 hours.

Airtel Kenya has indicated that there are 100,000 users of fake phones on its network while yuMobile said it will block 45,000. Telkom Orange is expecting to shut off 20,000 fake phones.

“This may have an impact on our revenues because we are likely to lose some customers in the move. But it is worth it,” Safaricom chief executive Bob Collymore told the Nation.

His yuMobile counterpart Madhur Taneja said the operator had a substantial number of counterfeits, but vowed not to compromise.

Airtel Kenya managing director Shivan Bhargava said the number of subscribers on their network that would be affected was not high as “the majority of our customers likely to be affected have taken the initiative of replacing their handsets”.