Safaricom Chief Executive Officer Bob Collymore has said that it would take them at least 15 hours to cut off all the fake phones currently connected to the country’s largest mobile operator which has 19 million customers.
Airtel Kenya has indicated that there are 100,000 users of fake phones on its network while yuMobile will block 45,000 and Telkom Orange is expecting to shut off 20,000 fake phones.
“We think it will be a really unfortunate consequence for customers, but hopefully the education process we have been through over the past two months has alerted people to the challenges,” Collymore said.
The switch-off process will involve blocking a handset that bears a fake International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number from accessing a mobile operators’ network.
However, a subscriber’s SIM card will not be affected by the process and it will still be active when a subscriber installs it on a genuine handset.
The mobile operators have launched promotions aimed at encouraging their customers to purchase low-cost handsets to replace counterfeits in their possession.
Safaricom says it has already sent SMS messages to notify customers whose handsets are fake that they would be switched-off.
The controversial move by the Communication Commission of Kenya (CCK) to eradicate the market of the fake phones has received quite a bit of opposition from consumers who unknowingly purchased the counterfeit handsets.
It is estimated there are 2.5 million fake handsets in the market, which CCK Director General Francis Wangusi says have been declining since the switch off campaign, which has received 11 million queries on the legitimacy of handsets.
“We use the GSMA database which is upgraded every other minute when a new phone that has been type approved by GSMA comes onto the market. This is the method of identifying whether what you are about to buy is genuine or not,” Wangusi said.
The regulator says following the switch-off that will deactivate phones found on the four mobile operators’ blacklists, consumers will be prohibited from registering counterfeit handsets with any of the mobile operators.
The issue of e-waste, the regulator has said, will be dealt with through an organisation that is yet to be unveiled, to help consumers recycle their fake and old handsets, while also relying on the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) to come up with an e-waste framework.
Moving forward, CCK says it will engage all actors in sealing the country’s borders to deal with the problem of counterfeits infiltrating the market.
“The government zero rated taxes on mobile phones and we want to continue to urge them not to introduce any duties on the mobile phones because that will accelerate the importation of fake phones,” Wangusi said.