MNP chaos sparks war of words and results in legal action

12 May 2011

Tensions in the notoriously combustible Kenya telecoms market have flared once again, with Safaricom – the country’s leading cellco by subscribers – obtaining a restraining order against Porting Access Kenya, the company in charge of managing the country’s much-maligned mobile number portability (MNP) process. Last Friday Safaricom reportedly filed an application barring the porting agent from publishing any more defamatory statements against it; earlier this month, in a national television interview, Porting Access managing director Patrick Musimba claimed that Safaricom was effectively sabotaging the MNP process, by not allowing subscriber’s porting requests to go through.

The court order reads: ‘The first and second defendants whether by themselves, agents, servants or otherwise howsoever be restrained from further publishing or causing to be published any words and statements accusing, linking or associating the plaintiff with sabotaging the mobile number portability process’. The case will be heard on 20 May.

Mobile number portability was introduced into the Kenyan wireless market on 1 April 2011, after a six-year delay. Earlier this month Porting Access released data showing that since the service was launched, it had received 43,545 MNP requests, of which only around 10,000 had been successfully processed; 15,000 applications were still pending, while at least 11,000 had ‘timed out’. Telecoms regulator the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) is reportedly in the midst of a series of meetings with technical groups representing the country’s four mobile operators – Safaricom, Airtel, Telkom (Orange) and Essar (Yu) – in a bid to identify possible causes of the problem, although it has yet to release its findings.

Kenya, Safaricom