“Today, Kenya will cross the 30 million threshold of active cell phone numbers, up 29,000 from 12 years ago,” Kenya’s information PS Bitange Ndemo tweeted on Friday.
The new numbers are a surge by 296,000 in just two months, with the recent Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) statistics putting total mobile subscriptions at 29.7 million, 99.1 percent of which were on prepaid tariff.
This was an increase of 500,000 new subscriptions from the third quarter, with the report by the CCK putting the total mobile subscriptions at 29.2 million.
The surge in numbers is expected to elicit joy in various quarters, but will also raise questions from experts, coming shortly after the switch-off of close to 1.89 million counterfeit handsets.
Most of the fake handsets switched off on September 30 are dual SIM, meaning one can put the average number of subscribers switched off at slightly higher.
By indicating that there were 3.8 million subscriptions in the last twelve months, the statistics could be based on the perception that all switched off handset owners could have purchased new handsets.
The figure could also support various claims from certain quarters that a number of switched off handsets had been resuscitated, either by smart IT Techies in backstreet Nairobi or by mobile phone companies for fear of revenue loss.
World Bank senior analysts Wolfgang Fengler and Espen Beer Prydz argue that handset prices have gone down thanks to the thriving second hand market.
“Almost everyone can now afford to buy a phone, which sell for as little as Ksh.500 (or US$5) on the flourishing second hand market,” they stated in a blog.
All the same, the increase in subscriptions is welcome, with the analysts saying increased mobile phone uptake has helped the region break the digital divide.
“The digital divide is behind us. This generation’s challenge is to leverage the new “digital tide” for the public good. Some early innovations are already very promising and there will be many more to come.”
Kenyans are also willing to spend more on telecommunications, an average $65 annually per user, an increase from last year’s $45.
Other milestones this year in the sector include the clocking of 15 million Internet users (37 percent of the population) and 20 million mobile money users, just short of half Kenya’s population.
Looking at the increased mobile total subscription, chances are the market can expect more credible figures next January once all unregistered SIM cards are switched off.