Kenyans will not be required to pay any fees to retain their existing mobile phone number when migrating to another network.
In a new set of procedures and guidelines aimed at shortening and simplifying the migration process, also known as mobile number portability (MNP), the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) has also capped to four hours the maximum time it will take to complete the process as it seeks to revive the process which has been on its death-bed. When it was launched in 2011, subscribers were required to pay a fee of Sh200 for a successful migration to another network.
However, the process ran into head-winds with only 163 ports being completed in 2011 when the service was launched. Five years later, the figure has barely changed with only 257 ports going through in 2015, according to the CA. There are 32.8 million mobile subscriptions, which is an 80 per cent penetration according to the communications regulator.
However, the sector has been under the strangle-hold of telecommunications firm Safaricom which controls over 70 per cent of the total market share including voice, SMS, mobile money transfer and internet data. The other operators include Airtel Kenya, a distant second and Orange Kenya.
With the new procedures and guidelines, the ICT regulator hopes to spur competitiveness in the sector by enabling subscribers to switch networks easily.
“The Authority in consultation with industry stakeholders and the general public, has reviewed the procedures and guidelines for the provision of MNP services in Kenya.
The review seeks to make the porting process shorter and simpler for the benefit of consumers that wish to port. The key highlight of the review is that consumers shall no longer pay porting fees,” said the regulator in a public notice signed by its Director General Francis Wangusi.
“Number Portability services, at the minimum, shall be available in all mobile operator owned retail outlets within Kenya during business hours,” reads part of the new procedures and guidelines. These measures were a culmination of consultations between the CA, industry stakeholders and members of the public.
According to the procedures, a porting applicant shall not be barred from crossing over to their preferred network by virtue of having outstanding debts to the old operator. This is likely to create friction given that most operators have financial services that allow customers to borrow money such as Safaricom and CBA’s M-Shwari service. Moreover, mobile providers also offer customers airtime on credit. “Member of the public are therefore requested to acquaint themselves with the MNP guidelines, which are available on the CA website,” said the notice that appeared that in a local daily on Friday.