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Millions face switch off, fines as regulator is set to deregister SIM cards

The Communications Authority of Kenya warns that mobile phone subscribers who fail to register their SIM cards with their respective telecommunication service providers by Friday, October 14, risk disconnection and penalties as prescribed under the law.

CA Director General Ezra Chiloba says SIM card registration is aimed at combating cybercrime and fraud in the digital space.

There has been a push and pull between the Authority and telecommunications service providers over sim-card registration since 2015 who have sought an extension of the deadline for the sim-card registration on numerous occasions.

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And now CA says enough is enough and that the regulations would be implemented from mid this month, meaning that those in possession of unregistered sim cards face fines of up to Sh300,000 or serve a jail term of six months or both.

In April, CA extended the deadline for SIM card registration by six months, relieving the pressure on subscribers who were rushing to comply.

The regulator said registration will run until October 15 even as Safaricom joined Airtel Kenya and Telkom Kenya in rolling out online registration following the lapse of the initial deadline.

The announcement by the regulator came as a relief to millions of subscribers who had been caught unawares by the requirement to update their details to include a copy of their identity card.

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A Safaricom SIM card. FILE PHOTO | NATION
A Safaricom SIM card. FILE PHOTO | NATION

Mandatory SIM registration is being implemented in the wake of growing incidents of fraud involving mobile phones.

“We want by October 15, all the networks to be cleaned up by deactivating all unregistered and improperly registered SIM cards from the networks,” said Chiloba.

He said Kenya will join other countries in the world that have developed similar policies and collected biometric data through a registration process by telecom companies in a bid to boost cybersecurity.

“It means that criminals and even terrorists can use unregistered SIM cards for anonymity and avoiding detection by the authorities,” he said adding that the registration will help in facilitating crime tracking and prevention by the security agencies.

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A mobile subscriber holds a new SIM card. PHOTO | JOSEPH KANYI
A mobile subscriber holds a new SIM card. PHOTO | JOSEPH KANYI

Many subscribers, especially those registered for mobile money, had for long thought they were fully registered only for telcos to start asking for copies of identity cards in line with the CA order.

Miscommunication on how SIM cards should be registered has been blamed for the rush by subscribers to comply with the 2015 regulations that all of a sudden look new.

The regulator says customers who will remain unregistered beyond the mid-October deadline will be fined.

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