THE Communications Commission of Kenya yesterday said that 1.89 million counterfeit handsets had been cut off since Sunday night.
The fake phones can now no longer receive or make calls, send messages, or access mobile money services. However their sim cards can still be transferred to geunine mobiles and will retain their data.
CCK said that by 4pm yesterday Safaricom had switched off 754,269 phones, Airtel 588,831, Orange 72,000 and yuMobile, 470,000 phones. However the figures from the telcom companies did not exactly match apart from those issued by Orange.
Safaricom said in a statement it had blocked 680,000 users and yuMobile about 120,000. Airtel had not confirmed its figures by press time.
Confusion reigned yesterday as some users remained connected despite being warned earlier been warned their handsets were counterfeit. The mobile operators said that they were gradually blocking fake handsets and would finish by the end of Monday.
Safaricom confirmed that it had completed the blocking all counterfeit phones on its network of 19.1 million subscribers. Safaricom said that 60 per cent of those disconnected were around Nairobi, Rift Valley, Central and Eastern.
Telkom Kenya operates the Orange brand and blocked 72,000 handsets out of its 3.1 million customers. yuMobile country manager, Madhur Taneja, said it expected to shut down about 120,000 of its estimated 2.6 users by the end of the day.
Airtel last week announced that about 100 000 subscribers were using fake phones out of its estimated 4.5 million subscribers. It is not clear how CCK will verify if the operators have actually cut off the users.
Yesterday industry leaders reassured subscribers that their lines will be restored as soon as they replace their fake handsets. "Once you get a genuine device, you're back in communication," said Taneja. "Only the handset is barred. The sim can still be used," said Safaricom CEO, Bob Collymore.
Collymore downplayed the impact on their business saying at midday, "No noticeable impact on traffic was observed this morning." "Trends have to be monitored over the next few days. It is still too early to tell," said Angela Mumo, Corporate Communications Head at Telkom Kenya.
One year ago the CCK ordered the telcom companies to ensure that counterfeit phones were blocked from accessing Kenyan mobile networks. The directive was postponed four times until September 30.
A global database has registered the International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) numbers of all GSM handsets manufactured. CCK has been running a campaign urging Kenyans to check their phone by sending a text message with their IMEI number to 1555.
Counterfeit handsets carry IMEI numbers duplicated from original ones. CCK Director General Francis Wangusi said last week that about 11 million queries had been sent since June.