CCK’s plans to switch off fake handsets hits snag

An operation expected to paralyse counterfeit mobile phones has not had the “rippling effect” expected, with at least one major network operator failing to immediately act in accordance with the directive from the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK).

YuMobile sent a warning message to affected subscribers as opposed to the expected ‘dead silence’ from the fake phones.

The message read: “Dear customer, CCK records indicate that your phone is not genuine. Please, purchase a genuine handset to prevent being cut off from our services, YuMobile.”

Sources from Safaricom, Kenya’s leading mobile network operator, have however confirmed that the company has finished blocking grey handsets used on its network.

According to Safaricom, the operation affected an estimated 680,000 customers, out of its 19-million subscriber-base.

“In order to mitigate the inconvenience we have been contacting all affected customers and providing them with the option of purchasing affordable genuine phones or redeeming their Bonga Loyalty Scheme Points for new handsets,” Collymore said.

The service provider confirmed that the analysis of the customers impacted so far indicated areas around Nairobi, Rift Valley, Central and Eastern were the hardest hit by the exercise.

Collymore said these areas account for more than 60 percent of the targeted counterfeit phones.

A number of local radio stations had reminded mobile users through their popular breakfast shows that they had not ‘got off easy’ if at all phones were still functional as the process is an ongoing exercise.

Reports also suggest that the operation is not a 1-day exercise even as attempts to reach the CCK offices for official confirmation on the duration prove futile.

During an interview with journalists on Friday, CCK’s director-general Francis Wangusi said their systems are in order as they have “thoroughly” type-approved which phones are genuine and which ones are not./p>

“The list we have is updated on a daily basis. Fake handsets are GSM approved by the GSMA, the ones we have on the list do not have the corresponding manufacturer’s number (IMEI) records with us,” he said.

Some experts although questioned the integrity of the country’s mobile network operators to comply with the ‘switch off’ schedule as according to CCK, it is they [the telcos] who have their “fingers on the button” in switching off the fake handsets.

“My handset is still functioning the way it was yesterday, I have not noticed any changes and I hope there will be none,” Jackiline Moraa, a subscriber of the YU network said.

Josephat Keya, a mobile user, told HumanIPO that purchasing new genuine handset costs a fortune.

“What the government is trying to do is not bad but at the end of the day it is us who live from hand to mouth that lose, youths like me want phones that have multi-media features, genuine phones have the same but they are quite expensive and these ‘china phones’ offer an alternative,” he complained.

The importation of fake mobile handsets into the Kenyan market has been excluded from theories of corrupt dealings within the ports as many have asked where was the regulatory body, CCK and the Kenya Bureau of Standards when all this was taking place.

Even so, Wangusi said that most of these gadgets came into the country illegally admitting that those that came through the port were few.

“One of the reasons why the CCK could not put a hand on the importation of these devices is that most came in through the Kenya-Somali border and very few can be said to have come in through our ports. As at now we are working with relevant arms of the government to ensure not only the importation but also circulation of the handsets is terminated,” he said.

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