The switch-off was effected following the lapse of the December 31 deadline set by the CCK as it seeks to root out illegal uses of telecommunications devices. The exercise follows a similar switch-off of counterfeit handsets on September 30 that saw more than two million fake handsets disconnected.
CCK’s measures come as the country heads to the general election on March 4. Experts observe that registration of SIM cards is likely to discourage use of mobile phones to spread hate speech as witnessed in the 2007 general elections.
The move is also expected to counter mobile phone related fraud and halt crimes such as ransom demanding using mobile phones, which have been on the increase in the last few years.
"The use of mobile handsets for hate speech, terrorism and other forms of crimes has no place in the safe and secure Kenya that we all aspire to. The switch-off of unregistered SIM-cards and the recent deactivation of counterfeit mobile handsets should be seen from this perspective," Muthusi said.
According to CCK’s preliminary figures, more than 80 percent of all lines had been registered by December 28, 2012. Safaricom led the pack with 85.2 percent registration or 16.7 million of its 19.6 million customers followed by Airtel, which had a registration rate of 82.55 percent, or 3.88 million subscribers. Yu registered 2.1 million lines or 65 percent while Orange registered 61 percent, or two million customers.
The move could turn tables in the market share space in the telecommunication industry with Safaricom likely to reverse recent losses.
As of the December 28, 2012, numbers Safaricom would have 67.7 percent market share, 3.7 up from CCK’s fourth quarter statistics while Airtel would follow with 15.7 percent, down 0.8 percent, Yu with 8.51 percent, down 0.5 percent and Orange with the lowest market share of 8.1 percent, having lost 2.4 percent.
CCK’s directive had also targeted more than 15 million modem lines to be registered. Kenyans living in the Diaspora are also not spared.