Kenya to switch off unregistered SIM cards
- Parent Category: Mobile
- Published on 26 October 2012
Mobile subscribers in Kenya who fail to register their SIM cards by December 31 could be denied telco services.
This is according to the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK), which is seeking to implement the measure to reduce mobile phone related fraud and other criminal activities.
This is also the commission's second attempt to block unregistered SIM cards after a 2010 attempt was derailed by a lack of laws to support the process. The CCK says the switch-off could help in fighting hate speech and mobile phone propagated crimes, such as mobile money fraud and kidnappings.
The warning comes barely a month since the CCK authorised mobile operators to switch off nearly 1.5 million fake phones. Contrary to expectations, unregistered SIM cards were not switched off in the October 1 exercise, with the CCK arguing that there was no law that compelled operators to switch off unregistered customers.
The CCK says an amendment to the Kenya Information and Communications Act of 1998 has now given the process a legal backing.
CCK director general Francis Wangusi says the commission will launch public awareness campaigns ahead of the December deadline. As of late 2010, statistics showed only 62% of the 20 million mobile users had registered their numbers. Kenya's mobile subscribers base has since grown to 29.7 million.
“Kenyans better get their National IDs in order to continue communicating on the networks come 31st December. We want the networks to be as secure as your ID. Your phone will soon be your ATM card, credit card and key and unless that phone is secure, those applications will not be possible,” said Wangusi.
The market regulator will also identify and switch off fake phones that have duplicated International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) numbers. It has emerged that CCK's effort to block counterfeit handsets from accessing mobile networks is being hampered by users who change the IMEI number of the switched-off phones.
For a fee of 1,000 shillings ($12), mobile phone technicians in Nairobi replace the counterfeit IMEI with the IMEI of original phones thus enabling blocked devices to access services. The CCK has warned that the technicians risk imprisonment of up to 5 years or a fine of 1 million shillings ($12,000) if caught.
“We have sensitised everyone that it is illegal to sell such equipment in the country. We have even deactivated them from the networks but if they can still go ahead and try to perpetuate it, they will face the law,” Wangusi said earlier this month.