Accusations fly over mobile number switch

April 12, 2011

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 12 – A new battlefield has opened up in the mobile phone industry with Kenya\’s two biggest players trading accusations over the implementation of Mobile Number Portability (MNP).

Airtel fired the first salvo on Tuesday morning, with Managing Director Rene Meza accusing Safaricom of employing anti-competitive tactics to block customers who are seeking to port to Airtel.

Mr Meza said Safaricom had deliberately declined to de-activate migrating numbers from their network, meaning customers had not completely moved to their network of choice but were held captive on their initial network, an act he termed as gross abuse of dominance.

"How do you explain several complaints received from customers who have opted to move their number to Airtel from Safaricom being unable to receive calls from Safaricom numbers for several days, while they are able to communicate on all platforms on the Airtel network with the same number?" Mr Meza asked in a statement to newsrooms.

He singled out Safaricom for wooing back customers who had already ported out of their network, terming it contrary to regulations issued by the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK).

"In essence, what this means is that the customer has not completely moved to his network of choice but is still held captive by Safaricom, an act that is anti patriotic and gross abuse of dominance by Safaricom clearly designed to beat efforts of the Government to fully liberalise the sector," he said.

But in a quick rejoinder Safaricom reacted with claims of its own.

The Director of Corporate Affairs Nzioka Waita accused Airtel of not disclosing to their clients the full implications of porting which include loss of services that are provided by their previous operator.

He cited a number of breaches in the ongoing implementation of MNP such as misinformation to customers and use of the wrong porting forms as part of the challenge to words number portability.

"Safaricom has received several requests to "cool off" (port back) from customers that have ported or are in the process of porting to Airtel. Majority allege that they have not been given any information on porting or its implications by Airtel representatives," Mr Nzioka said.

The CCK has however called for a meeting with all operators to establish what is going on with MNP.

"We have received a number of complaints and we want to find out what the starting point is and how we can resolve it," CCK Director General Charles Njoroge said on phone when asked to comment on the issue.

Prior to the implementation of MNP, all operators had expressed commitment to ensure the service was implemented smoothly, a move that was seen as another milestone in Kenya\’s telecommunication sector.

There were however a number of technical issues at the beginning that greatly slowed down the porting process that led to as little as 300 people port within the first two weeks of its implementation.

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