Unregistered phone users face mass switch-off

 

Man using a mobile phone in the streets of Nairobi, Kenya. [File, Standard]

Millions of mobile subscribers face disconnection as the government moves to enforce the SIM Card Registration Regulations (2015).

According to the Communications Authority (CA), mobile phone subscribers who have registered their SIM cards without providing their photo IDs face disconnection by April 15.

“The regulations state that proper SIM card registration includes a photo ID, and since 2017 we have asked mobile service providers to comply, but they have not,” said the regulator.

“They have asked for more time to reach out to their subscribers, but we have reached a compromise date, and they have to do it by April 15.”

Telkom Kenya said, “We continue to engage with our teams and our customers and have already initiated a targeted registration awareness campaign to ensure that our customers follow the due registration processes”.

But according to a source at CA, the number to be affected could run into millions.

“This is mostly going to affect those who registered their SIM cards between 2002 and 2015, and we find that they are mostly older subscribers who are reluctant to provide their photo IDs,” said the source.

According to the latest Sector Statistics Report, the number of mobile subscribers in the country stood at 64.8 million as of September 2021.

This is an increase of 76 per cent from 36.8 million subscribers as of September 2015.

If implemented, the directive could have a significant impact on the operations and the bottom line of mobile service providers.

Safaricom currently leads the market with 31.4 million one-month active subscribers, including 28 million on M-Pesa and 23.7 million on its mobile data network as of last year. 

The company’s average revenue per user on voice, M-Pesa, and mobile data stood at Sh257, Sh256, and Sh186 respectively.   

The directive will also affect individuals who have purchased multiple SIM cards but are yet to register all of them using their photo IDs. 

“We are yet to get exact figures of subscribers who have not been onboarded, and to us they are undocumented. We have insisted they be disconnected, but the operators have been saying these are some of their high-value customers,” said the CA source, who did not want to be named because they are not authorised to speak to the media.

“We’ll soon issue a public notice that in seven days, your number will cease to function until you register using your photo ID with a relevant customer care agent,” added the source.

CA further said enforcement of the regulation is part of efforts for a more rigorous SIM card registration process that in the future could include the capturing of biometric data.  

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