Kenyans to get new phone numbers as 07** runs out

New mobile subscribers will get mobile numbers with a different prefix after service providers exhausted the 07** prefix.

Safaricom and Airtel have already applied for the new 01** prefix and will roll out new lines starting with 0110, 0111 and 0100, 0101, 0102 respectively.

Safaricom will roll out two million numbers and Airtel three million. Telkom Kenya has not applied for the prefix as the telco awaits regulatory approval for its proposed merger with Airtel Kenya.

“The move to release the new series of numbers is necessitated by increased demand for SIM cards, mobile data and machine-to-machine communication, and other emerging technologies that require telecommunication numbers,” said Communications Authority of Kenya Director General Francis Wangusi.

Mr Wangusi said the regulator had provided for 100 million lines under the 07**- prefix which had been exhausted due to multiple registration of SIM cards for cell phones as well as new Internet-enabled devices introduced in the market.

Data from the regulator’s latest statistics indicates that the number of mobile phone subscribers stood at 49 million as at December last year. However, almost a third of Kenyans have multiple SIM cards thus pushing mobile penetration in the country past the 100 per cent mark.

At the same time, more than 50 million SIM cards have been taken up by SIM-card enabled gadgets such as modems and smart home devices.

Such connected devices – popularly categorised under the Internet of Things (IoT) – create a network link that allow for their automation and remote access.

Device manufacturers are finding ways of embedding sensors into everyday items ranging from televisions and refrigerators to blenders and shower heads thus creating a wider variety of IoT products for tech savvy consumers.

More than 10 billion devices are estimated to be part of the IoT today with this number expected to more than quadruple over the next two years.

“We have set aside the 03** prefix, which entails hundreds of millions of SIM cards between 0301 to 0309, for the IoT, which we expect will register significant demand and growth in the coming years,” said Wangusi.

At the same time, Kenyans could soon be limited in the number of SIM cards they can own as the telecommunications regulator seeks to review existing laws that allow for multiple SIM card ownership.

The CA is currently in discussions with mobile network operators (MNOs) to review regulations around SIM card registration in a bid to reduce cases where they are used by criminals. 

“We have had cases of one ID being used to register multiple SIM cards which are then used for terrorism and money laundering. We are talking to MNOs to see how we can review the policy,” said Wangusi.

He continued: “Our neighbours in Tanzania have begun limiting one subscriber to one SIM card and while we may not adopt the same policy, we are exploring all available options including biometric registration of mobile subscribers.”

Wangusi also said that the Huduma Namba would be a cheaper alternative to carrying out fresh biometric registration of mobile subscribers, adding that the regulator would seek to link the Huduma Namba to subscribers’ details.