SIM cards switch-off cuts Kenya's mobile subscribers to 29.8m

Communications Commission of Kenya director general Francis Wangusi at a past media event. FILE
Communications Commission of Kenya director general Francis Wangusi at a past media event. FILE 

The switch off of unregistered SIM cards cut the number of Kenya's mobile subscribers to 29.8 million from 30.7 million in the first three months of the year.

The quarterly report released Wednesday covering between January and March this year indicates that Safaricom lost most subscribers (200,071) followed by Airtel (169,237) Orange (7970) and Essar’s yu (1,735) during the period.

The Communication Commission of Kenya (CCK) attributed the decline to the de-activation of 2.4 million unregistered SIM cards during the quarter.

The decline in number of subscribers has affected the country’s mobile penetration rate which fell to 75.8 per cent in the three months to March from 78 per cent in the previous quarter under review.

“Similarly, the total mobile traffic declined by 1.2 per cent to stand at 7.2 billion minutes down from 7.3billion recorded in the previous quarter,” said the CCK quarterly report.

The SIM card registration is aimed at enhancing national security by making it possible to trace details of subscribers engaged in criminal activities such as spreading hate speech, mobile money conmanship, extortion or demanding for ransom in kidnapping cases.

Mobile operators however said the move would led to revenue losses in the short term.

Uptake of mobile money expanded with subscriptions increasing by 10.1 per cent to reach 23.2million. This growth is attributed to the convenience as well as the value-added services of facilitating payments for goods and services.

The number of mobile money transfer agents rose to 74,216 up from 62,300 reported in the previous quarter creating at least 11,916 additional direct jobs in mobile money transfer service during the third quarter.

During the same period, the internet/data market grew to reach 9.6 million subscriptions.

Mobile data/internet subscriptions continued to dominate the market contributing 99 per cent of the total subscriptions. During the quarter, the number of active registered domain names increased by 3.1 per cent to reach 25,764 from 24,983 recorded in the previous quarter.

Broadband subscriptions grew by 17.5 per cent to reach 1.17 million while international internet bandwidth available in the country increased to 921,319 Mbps.

The implementation of the National Broadband Strategy launched recently is expected to accelerate the uptake of broadband in the country.