Kenya: Airtel And Safaricom Clash Over Portability

Telecoms

Mobile phone operators, Safaricom and Airtel have opened a new battle front but this time over Mobile Number Portability, less than a fortnight after it was launched. The rivals who last year engaged in a cut throat price war are now accusing each other of sabotage and use of under hand tactics to prevent subscribers from moving across the networks.

Last week, they both dispatched media statements leveling charges at each other which eventually forced the Communication Commission of Kenya to intervene. Airtel Managing Director, Rene Meza alleged use of anti-competition tactics to block customers coming to the network, "How do you explain several complaints received from customers who have opted to move their number to Airtel from Safaricom being unable to receive calls from Safaricom numbers for several days, while they are able to communicate on all platforms on the Airtel network with the same number?"

Safaricom on the other hand raised alarm the competition was making deliberate delays in processing applications by subscribers porting into its network. It also accused Airtel, which has been on an advertising blitz, of mis-informing subscribers and changing the standard porting application form.

Safaricom's Director of Corporate Affairs Nzioka Waita said, "For instance, the procedure listed on one of its websites advises customers to send the SMS "Hama" or "Port" without first visiting its retail outlet or having the implication of porting explained".Another accusation by Airtel is that Safaricom was deliberately declining to de-activate its old sim cards. "This means the customer has not completely moved to his network of choice but is still held captive by Safaricom, an act that is anti patriotic and gross abuse of dominance by Safaricom clearly designed to beat efforts of the Government to fully liberalize the sector," Meza said. But in its defense, Safaricom said it had received several requests to "cool off" (port back) from customers that have ported or are in the process of porting to Airtel.

In a bid to find a solution to the issue, CCK called a meeting of the legal, process and technical working groups yesterday afternoon. The regulator will also meet with the CEOs of the mobile phone companies today.