Illegal activities in the Telecommunication sector should be dealt with appropriately. The sector holds the power of passing information from one place to another and if the process is jeopardized then many people will suffer. The Director General of The Communications Authority of Kenya released a statement after a concern was raised on illegal activities being carried out in the city.
The Communications Authority of Kenya did some investigations and found out that people were carrying out illegal telecommunication operations. “After our investigations in consultations with the Police and relevant players in the telecommunications sector, we have confirmed that indeed certain individuals were carrying out illegal activities with regards to international telephone traffic termination using equipment popularly known as SIMBOX.” Mr. Francis Wangusi said.
To kill the operations, the authority took legal measures and raided an establishment in the Nairobi Central Business District. The authority is on a mission to eliminate all illegal international telephone traffic termination equipment in Kenya.
“It is to be recalled that the advancement and rapid adoption of new technologies particularly the Internet Protocol (IP) technology has heralded the emergence of alternative communication systems such as Voice over the Internet Protocol (VoIP) which, though not always of good quality, presents an arbitrage opportunity for people to make and receive International calls fairly cheaply by bypassing the traditional international voice communication systems. This kind of communication, often referred to as grey traffic termination, is facilitated through the establishment of illegal equipment setup known as a SIMBOX. This is the setup we raided today in the Nairobi Central Business District and dismantled the illegal equipment.” Mr. Wangusi added.
The so called unscrupulous persons were taking advantage of the charge difference in termination charges, “you may wish to note that the termination charges for international calls are higher than those for local termination.” The director said. The guys were re-routing international calls through the Internet and dumping them on the local networks disguised as local calls and cashing on the termination price margins.
Operators were sidelined and subjected to suffering by the illegitimate operators. “In respect of the illegal setup we have found today, the losses incurred by the operators, which is dependent on the volume of the illegal traffic terminated, and which will require further analysis to establish, could run into millions of shillings.” Mr. Wangusi said. To add on that, the director said that SIM boxing compromises the quality of service of the local operators’ networks.
An illegal SIMBOX operator poses massive security concern because it manipulates the calling line identification (CLI) when one tries to avoid detection. “The SIMBOX is normally loaded with SIM cards on one side and connected to the Internet on the other side hence creating an illegal interface between the two networks. This interface is not only technically inappropriate but more importantly in contravention of the Interconnection Regulations and often done without the knowledge of either of the mobile Network Operators nor the Internet service provider.” Mr. Wangusi said.
Steps taken by the Communications Authority of Kenya
- Ordered each network operator to procure a SIMBOX detection tool capable of identifying SIM boxing activities. Each operator is also obligated to disconnect any SIM cards associated with such activities and to report the same to the regulator for further enforcement purposes. Today, each mobile operator has in place SIMBOX detection tools that aid in the detection of SIMBOX Activities.
- Required operators to exchange information relating to such activities in order to avoid a situation where such illegal operators hop from one operator to another. This system has proven very effective to date and the illegal operators have been apprehended.
- Developed VoIP guidelines that provide for explicit interconnection arrangements between duly licensed operators to facilitate legal VoIP traffic exchange/termination. This was upon adoption of a technology neutral licensing and regulatory approach in the year 2005.
- Encouraged operators to reduce the disparity between international termination rates as compared to local terminations rates with a view to reducing the arbitrage opportunities between termination charges for international calls vis-a-viz local call termination charges (MTRs) which has fuelled the fraudulent activities.
- Took steps to enhance the competitiveness in international call termination business by licensing more international gateways thereby further driving down the international traffic termination rates hence minimizing the arbitrage opportunities.
The authority is working with law enforcement agencies to make sure the illegal traffic termination like SIMBOXES are dealt with. In addition, they call on members of the public and the landlords to be more alert and assist by reporting any suspicious telecommunications installations in their premises for verification and appropriate action. The aim is stop illegal activities in the Telecommunication sector in Kenya.