Kenyan Phone Companies to Switch of Fake Handsets Oct. 1

Kenya, east Africa’s biggest economy, will switch off as many as 2.5 million counterfeit mobile phones starting Oct. 1, the Communications Commission of Kenya said today.

“We had an estimation of 2.5 million handsets as counterfeit” two months ago, Director General Francis Wangusi told reporters in the capital, Nairobi. “Since we began the sensitization campaign, I would suppose the number has decreased.”

The regulator is switching off counterfeit handsets to boost security agencies’ ability to track users and because the devices pose health risks since they are of lower quality, he said. Any counterfeit phones bought after Oct. 1 will not be activated by operators, he said.

There were 29.2 million mobile-phone users in Kenya as of March 31, according to data from the commission. Mobile penetration increased to 74 percent in the three months through March from 71 percent in the previous three months.

All four mobile-phone companies in the country, Safaricom Ltd., Airtel Networks Kenya Ltd., Telkom Kenya Ltd. and Essar Telecom Kenya Ltd. have agreed to switch off counterfeit handsets, their chief executive officers told reporters during a joint briefing in Nairobi today.

Consumers Affected

“We should not expect to see much impact because most of the counterfeit phones tend to be low end,” Brian Longwe, a telecommunications analyst with Nairobi-based consultancy Pure Innovations, said in a phone interview yesterday. “It is unlikely there will be a major impact on revenue. It is the consumers who will mostly be affected.”

Most of the affected users are likely to replace their handsets with genuine ones within two days of being switched off since mobile phones have multiple uses such as money transfers, Wangusi said.

On average, Kenyan mobile-phone users make calls totalling 77.7 minutes and send 11.67 text messages per month, according to data from the industry regulator. Safaricom, the biggest operator, charges 3 shillings ($0.04) a minute for calls.

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