Many Kenyans stranded as SIM cards blocked

Thousands of Kenyans’ cell phone lines have been suspended after the October 15, 2022 SIM registration deadline elapsed.

Leading telecommunications company Safaricom sent messages to its affected clients, asking them to visit its mobile shops to have the blocked lines reactivated.

“Dear customer, your line has been suspended pending registration update. Visit the nearest M-Pesa or Safaricom shop to update your ID,” the company said in a message to one of its clients.

“I received the suspension message this morning (Sunday, October 16). I can’t transact on M-Pesa, access data bundles or send messages. However, someone can call me and the call will go through,” a Nairobi resident, Lilian, told The Standard on Sunday morning.

Users of Airtel and Telkom were also affected.

The Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) had set October 15, 2022 as the deadline for SIM registration.

According to the CA, the move will allow the government to weed out fraudsters and criminals using unregistered cell phone lines to cause harm.

On Friday, October 14, the agency clarified that subscribers whose cell phone lines would be blocked after the registration deadline would still be able to reactivate them in subsequent days, saying registration was a continuous process that can’t be limited to a specific date.

“Operators are not going to stop the exercise because of the October 15, 2022 deadline. We expect them to continue with the process,” said CA’s Telecoms Licensing and Compliance Assistant Director Liston Kirui.

The Communications Authority of Kenya had earlier set the SIM card registration deadline as April 15, 2022 but revised it to October 15.

In June this year, the CA said more than 124,000 SIM cards had been deactivated in efforts to curb illegally registered lines in Kenya.

Data indicated that some 14 million cell phone lines across all mobile networks in the country were yet to be formally registered in the run-up to the October 15, 2022 deadline.

No official figures have been released indicating the exact number of Kenyans affected by the suspension.

The CA said that as of September 2021, about 59 million mobile phone devices were connected to the different mobile networks in Kenya.

The statistics, which was based on returns by mobile operators, showed that out of the number, 33 million were feature phones while 26 million were smartphones, putting the penetration levels at 67.9 per cent and 53.4 per cent respectively.

The report, that covered July to September 2021, also showed that the number of mobile money subscriptions stood at 64.9 million.

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