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Mobile subscribers rush to beat SIM registration deadline

By - | January 1st 2013

By Njiraini Muchira

Mobile phone users jammed dealer outlets across the country in a last-minute dash to keep their SIM cards active.

On Monday was the last day for owners of unregistered SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) cards to list them with various mobile phone networks.

The Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) was to have blocked all unregistered SIM cards from midnight.

“By midnight today, all unregistered SIM cards shall be suspended from service without fail,” said CCK Director General Francis Wangusi in a statement read by Consumer and Public Affairs director Mutua Muthusi.

The industry regulator maintained the registration deadline would not be extended.

It was a beehive of activity for dealers as Kenyans yet again demonstrated the culture of last-minute rush.

Escape switch-off

Dealership outlets of the four service providers witnessed large numbers of subscribers seeking to register their SIM cards and escape the switch off.

“I came here before 8am and it has taken me over four hours to register my SIM card,” said Phillis Wambui, a subscriber who was at a Safaricom shop in Nairobi.

SIM cards owners who will have them switched off, however, were handed a 90 days reprieve to register their lines failure to which they will be permanently de-activated.

According to CCK, there are a total of 30.8 million active SIM cards in the country of which 80.4 per cent or 24.7 million are registered. The remaining six million had not been registered by December 28.

Safaricom, with about 20 million subscribers had three million unregistered, Airtel with about five million had 823,000 unregistered, Orange with 3.3 million had 1.2 million unregistered while Yu with 3.2 million had 1.1 million unregistered.

Despite the large number of unregistered SIM cards, the CCK on Monday said the deadline would not be extended and that the intended switch off would be effected at the click of midnight.

Reduce crime

The switching off of unregistered SIM cards comes just three months after CCK deactivated close to two million counterfeit phones in September.

The two moves are expected to significantly reduce the number of crimes perpetrated using mobile phones.

This came after President Kibaki in 2009 issued a directive that all active SIM cards be registered to stem the rising incidences of mobile phone perpetrated crimes including kidnaps, extortion, hate speech, money laundering and drug trafficking.

“We have an obligation as an industry to ensure that public confidence in ICT is maintained and enhanced by making all communications platforms, including mobile telephony, secure,” observed Muthusi.

Though CCK has in the past threatened to switch off unregistered SIM cards, lack of a legal framework made it impossible to implement the initiative.

But the Government, through The Statute Law (Miscellaneous Amendments) Act, amended the Kenya Information and Communications Act, to provide for the necessary legal backing to undertake the switch off.

The law demands the registration of telecommunication subscribers and also requires all mobile operators to maintain a register of all persons to whose telecommunications services are provided under the license.

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