Yesterday Safaricom made an announcement that it introduced two new prefixes, 0110 and 0111 to the market, prefixes that should allow it add two million new subscribers to its network. The framing of the press release Safaricom sent to news rooms sounds like Safaricom had exhausted its available prefixes – or that it can’t add 2 million subscribers to its network without the new prefixes. Let’s examine this.
According to the latest report by Communications Authority, Safaricom subscribers number around 34.6 million against a total of 53.3 million subscribers. To accommodate its subscribers, Safaricom has 070X, 071X, 072X, 074X, 0757, 0758, 0759, 0768, 0769 and 079X. that allows the telco to have up to 55 million subscribers, and that’s before they add the new 0110 and 0111 prefixes to their network which will now allow them to have 57 million subscribers. It is therefore clear Safaricom doesn’t need new prexes, not in the foreseeable future. This is because the 34.6 million subscribers the telco enjoys right now still leaves it with 20.4 free slots that it can sell to new subscribers as they come, and that’s when you assume no existing subscriber dies or leaves the network. Obviously therefore the 2 million subscribers Safaricom is looking to recruit can be fixed within the existing prefixes.
For a company that adds around 2 to 3 million subscribers to its network every year, Safaricom still has approximately eight years before it can exhaust the 07xx prefixes allocated to it. It therefore feels like unnecessary rush for the telco to launch the 01xx prefixes that were introduced by Communication Authority mid last year. The introduction of the new prefixes was a preemptive measure to ensure the country doesn’t exhaust the 07xx prefixes given the continued growth of mobile subscribers. The 07xx prefixes all together allow for 100 million subscribers, and as at now the total number of subscribers stand at about 55 million or 112% of the country’s population. Adding 01xx numbers to the database means the country can now accommodate up to 200 million unique mobile phone subscriptions. That will be able to accommodate every Kenyan including newborns, even if they all decide to own 4 SIM cards each.
Safaricom’s decision to operationalise the 0110 and 0111 prefix that it had acquired from Communications Authority when the Authority launched the new numbers cannot therefore be because they need to recruit 2 million subscribers to their network, but simply to put a prefix it was issued to work – or for marketing purposes. There are those who would love the idea of owning a number with the new prefixes, and those are the people Safaricom is targeting.