Fake Phones- Expect Chaos on the 30th of September

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The day of switching off the fake phones is fast approaching and comes 30th of September according to CCK all 4 million phones will be off.  I know we all agree that Fake phones are bad but whose fault it is that they are in the country and being sold openly on Nairobi streets and other places? Much on that later, when they talk of switching off phones, what is in my mind is that on that day magically all the 4 million fake phones according CCK stats, will go off literally and you can not Turn them on again.  But that I know sounds dumb, so then the other way is that people will be disconnected from the network and not necessarily switched off. The next question is how will this be done. How will the mobile network operators identify those who are  using fake phones?

First thing first, a phone works by communicating with the service network through a base station or cell tower. Yes you can see those Boosters around built by different network operators(Safaricom, Orange, Airtel and the likes). The Base stations divide places to small areas, or cells. So the signal transmitted from Orange for example  is handed from tower to tower. So once the signal is transmitted, there is no way that signal will discriminate which phone to pick it up be it fake or original.

From the Quote on Capitalfm site:

“Through the advice of this technical team, we have established an intelligent database that subscribers will be sending inquiries into to verify whether their mobile phones are genuine or not,” said CCK’s Acting Director General, Francis Wangusi.

Ooooooh…seriously… This is going to be a disaster. So basically it means everyone has to send inquires to the database to verify that the phone he/she is using is  not fake. In other words those who will not by then will be switched off regardless.  Base on my basic understanding, on 30th September 2012 all the mobile operators will assume that anyone who has not verified his/her phone is using fake phone…..Ok…Ok..I hope I am wrong on that because otherwise expect chaos in the country.

Knowing Kenyans by that day almost 90% will not have bothered to verify their phones, that is more that 20 million people or handsets.Why, because at the moment people who are using genuine phones are not bothered and they including me think that CCK will have an automatic way to identify the fake phones without going after innocent people using original phones. And you will agree with them that they are right and that is how it should be.

In  the last few days I have heard informal chat with a number of people from different mobile operators and I get the sense that they have been hoping that MPs would be forced by their constituents to speak out against the switching off deadline. In other words they are not keen to go that route although they don’t want to appear opposing what is seen to be the right thing. And the right thing it is but I think there is a big problem on how this is going to be done.  Assuming that the likes of Safaricom are ready to switch off the handsets, using the method stated by CCK, then expect over 20million people  including the Government Officials, Network Operators employees to be on the dark that day. Then what next? I guess people will be scrambling to access the verification system, which I bet will not withstand the traffic.  It will definitely crash as we have seen with KNEC website when the KCPE /KCSE is released, or the iebc website during by-elections . The end result will be a major disruption of the  normal lives of innocent Kenyans, loss of revenue to the network operators, loss of business to entrepreneurs and a big loss to Kenyan economy.

And again whose fault it is that there are fake phones being sold openly on Tom Mboya street and Luthili Avenue?  It is the responsibility of the Government through KEBS to protect the consumers by not allowing the Fake phones  in the Country. And  definitely Government know the people who bring in the Fake phones because those people are big shots with deep pocket and not the small people.

I do understand where the CCK is coming from, being pushed by the handset makers to reign on the counterfeit business but the people who have already bought  the fake phones should be left alone. In most cases they are innocent and they are already suffering due to inferior quality of those phones. Two of the reasons Nokia gave against buying the fake phones indicate that the consumers who buy such phones do suffer

1. You aren’t going to get what you paid for. It might say 3G, WLAN, GPS and all the rest, but once you get it home, it’s entirely possible that you’ll have a mobile monstrosity that’s barely capable of making a phone call. In any case, because they are made using cheaper, often inferior components, fake phones simply won’t work as well as the real deal.

2. You’re not likely to be able to take it back. And good luck six months down the line when it breaks and you look for warranty service.

When you buy a phone and it does not last 6 months, obviously the next time you go out there to look for a phone , you would be very careful not fall on the same trap again.

Solutions

We can blame the people buying the fake phones as much as we all want, but the real problem is with the Government which does not take its duty seriously and allow the phones in the country. The first step would to seal the entry point…

The next step is to go after the stores selling the phones, for heaven sake the Phones are being sold in fixed shops. Everyone around know where those shops are, the Government should make it clear that there is unacceptable sell  fake phones in Kenya. The consequences of going against that  should be loud and clear

The third step should be the continuous consumer education on  the dangers of fake phones and how to avoid them. I once attended a workshop where I learnt that even the law enforcement officers have no idea on how to identify the fake phones.

And Finally, now that CCK have come up with the database, it should be used by people buying the new phones. At the point of purchasing the phone the sellers should help the people verify that they are buying the genuine phone.

 

 

What is your opinion on the topic?
Kennedy Kachwanya
Lead Blogger at Kachwanya.com
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Kennedy Kachwanya is a technology blogger interested in mobile phones both smart and dumb, mobile apps, mobile money, social media, startups ecosystem and digital Savannah. New media must not forget the strength of old tech.
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