Kenyan Regulators Threaten To Block 20% of Phone Subscribers
Mobile Phone operators have been ordered by PS Bitange Ndemo to disconnect numbers that are not registered in their database by September 16. This move follows the expiry of the SIM card registration exercise, whose deadline expired on Tuesday 31st August.
Information and Communication Permanent Secretary Dr Bitange Ndemo said that operators had been given the next 15 days to compile their databases. But the move is likely to be met with opposition with consumer rights organisations asking which laws are being used to buldoze Kenyans into accepting every roadside declaration?
The PS says he based the decision on section 23 of the Kenya Communications Act 2009 which in part reads: ‘the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) shall so far as is reasonably practicable ensure there are provided through out Kenya such telecommunication services and in particular emergency, public payphone and directory information services as are reasonably necessary to satisfy public demand thereof.’
The move to register mobile phone users was initiated by the ministry after President Kibaki’s directive to mobile phone operators to register their customers to enhance national security and reduce phone related crimes.
Operators are at their own volition to decide to terminate lines that do not appear in their database. But speaking to 3 senior executives of Orange Kenya, Safaricom and Zain, it is unlikely that any operator will terminate subscribers on a vague directive which is not backed by any law. The operators says that what the ministry is doing is just using threats and not acting in a legal manner and they wont act on threats but directives backed by proper laws.
CCK Director General Charles Njoroge said operators were obligated to inform subscribers before disconnecting them for non registration until such a time they comply.
“After 15th there should be no complaints that my information has not been transmitted to the operator. After that, we expect that any number that will be in the system has an identity and if not must be disconnected until the individual complies,” Mr Njoroge said.
According to the Ministry of Information and Communications, 80 percent of subscribers have complied with the government directive.
Safaricom had registered 13.4 million subscribers out of its 16 million strong subscribers marking 84 percent compliance. Zain Kenya had registered 1.39 Million clients which is just 65% of its subscriber base. Essar Telecom’s yu has registered 445,000 out of 1.5 million customers. Telekom Kenya’s Orange has 250,000 out of 500,000 customers registered.