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Kenya to switch off over 6 mln of unregistered SIM cards
[December 31, 2012]

Kenya to switch off over 6 mln of unregistered SIM cards

NAIROBI, Dec 31, 2012 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- Kenya's telecommunication sector regulator said it will switch off about 6.05 million subscribers who have not registered their SIM cards as at midnight on Monday.

Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) Consumer and Public Affairs Director Mutua Muthusi told journalists in Nairobi that some 80.4 percent (24.79 million) of mobile phone users had registered their SIM cards ahead of the switch-off deadline.

"I am pleased to note that the initial media campaign was quite successful as the proportion of registered SIM cards rose from 41 percent to 81 percent. Over time and due to cut-throat competition in the market as well as lack of an enabling legal framework, SIM card vendors relapsed to their old ways of selling SIM cards without first registering them," Muthusi said.

"As a result, the proportion of the registered SIM cards fell below 70 percent within a year, putting the country at a greater security risk in view of the increasing levels of terrorist attacks, hate speech and other forms of crime." He said there will be no extension of time for unregistered phone mobile users and their SIM cards will be off-service after the lapse of the deadline.

According to Muthusi, suspended SIM cards that will not have been registered by the end of 90 days will be de-activated permanently.

Muthusi noted that with the deactivation of counterfeit handsets and registration of all active SIM cards, law enforcement agencies shall now find it easier to track down those using mobile phones for criminal activities.

"This is particularly important in securing our country as the nation prepares for the next general elections in March 2013. The days of purchasing SIM cards and discarding them at will after misuse are now over. Ultimately, this will go a long way in minimizing the misuse of our telecommunications numbering resources," he warned.

He said majority of consumers have heeded the industry regulator's appeal and registered their SIM cards "As at Friday, Dec. 28, 80.4 percent of all active mobile lines in the country had been registered. I wish to call on those who have not registered their mobile lines to do so immediately as the Commission has no intention whatsoever of extending the deadline after mid-night today," he said.

Muthusi said CCK has an obligation as an industry to ensure that public confidence in Information and Communication Technology (ICTs) is maintained and enhanced by making all communications platforms, including mobile telephony, secure to deliver on the sector targets as set out in Vision 2030.

"Usage of ICTs must also be in furtherance of the wider good of society and our economy. The use of mobile handsets for hate speech, terrorism and other forms of crimes has no place in the secure and safe Kenya that we all aspire to," he said.

"The switch off of unregistered SIM cards and the recent deactivation of counterfeit mobile handsets should be seen from this perspective." This is the CCK's second attempt to block unregistered SIM cards after a 2010 attempt was derailed by a lack of laws to support the process. The regulator had authorized mobile operators to switch off nearly 1.5 million fake phones.

The liberalization of the mobile telecoms market has witnessed massive uptake of mobile telecommunications services in the East African country.

To date, Kenya has more than 30 million mobile subscribers, and close to 15 million regular Internet users.

Muthusi said Kenya's ICT sector has won global acclaim for innovation, particularly in mobile money services and other financial applications and services.

"As the ICT sector regulator, CCK shall continue to foster sector growth and innovation with a view to ensuring that ICTs remain one of the key drivers of growth of our economy," he said.

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