Mobile phone manufacturers are scrambling to maximise handset sales in the run-up to the deadline set by communications industry regulator for switching off of counterfeit phones.
Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) has set September 30 as the final date for mobile subscribers using counterfeit handsets to access services from any local mobile operator after which the services will be shut down. (Read: The days of fake phones numbered)
Last week, Samsung Electronics launched a new handset it says is a strategic effort to meet consumer demand in light of the CCK switch-off warning.
In a statement, Samsung East Africa said the new Samsung Chief Hero handset (E1500) has been customised for local conditions to boost the uptake of genuine handsets and support CCK’s anti-counterfeit phones campaign.
Samsung Electronics East Africa business leader Robert Ngeru told Smart Company magazine that the handset, retailing at Sh3, 199, is expected to attract low-cost consumers looking for genuine alternatives before the end of the month.
Nokia said it has already increased stock as it braces for higher demand arising from the impending switch-off of counterfeit handsets.
“We have launched a few devices to enable Kenyans access smartphone services at a low cost,” said Nokia East African general manager Bruce Howe.
“I expect the market to adjust itself because even the manufacturers will be looking to enjoy better sales in the switch-off period. The price of phones in the period is likely to drop relatively to the benefit of the customers as manufacturers fight for their brands to remain favourite among buyers,” CCK director-general Francis Wangusi said.
According to CCK, there are over 2.3 million counterfeit handsets in use locally. Manufacturers are now engaging in price wars as they bid to get the best of the rising demand as consumers make their last minute rush to replace the fake handsets.
In partnership with the operators, the manufacturers have launched various promotions to try to woo customers with low and flexible pricing models.
Safaricom, the biggest mobile operator in Kenya and which is expected to withdraw services from at least 680,000 subscribers on its network, has also launched a promotion aimed at helping the affected subscribers acquire low-cost smartphones easily.
The programme gives the subscribers a chance to acquire a new handset by redeeming their customer loyalty points with the addition of some fee.
Through the programme dubbed ‘Jisort na Smartphone; Do Not Be Switched Off!’ subscribers can acquire different handsets including Huawei, Alcatel, LG, Nokia and Samsung.
“Fake phones are not even safe for our customers and so we are going to switch off them come 30 September. But we are offering the affected an easier procedure to acquire a new handset,” Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore said.
Telkom Orange has also launched a promotional offer branded “Chagua Original” to provide subscribers with genuine handsets at a discount rate.
“We must make sure that none of our customers are affected because it will also mean loss of business for us,” Telkom CEO Michael Ghossein said.
As manufacturers continue with their fight, consumers are poised to benefit most especially after CCK ruled out compensation. Vendors are also counting on gains accruing from increased sales.
CCK has, however, cautioned customers against the misconception that all Chinese phones are counterfeit.
“The attention of the Commission has been drawn to a misconception in the mobile phones market that all handsets manufactured in China or by Chinese firms are counterfeit. The Commission wishes to state that China has globally recognized companies whose products and solutions are being used worldwide by top operators, and which meet CCK requirements in respect to quality and type approval,” Mr Wangusi said in statement.
“Huawei adheres to the laws and regulations of the countries we operate in while meeting all the product requirements,” Huawei Kenya representative office chief executive Wind Li said assuring subscribers of the originality of its Ideos phones.
Mr Howe urged those affected by the switch off to remit their obsolete handsets to Nokia to reduce environmental impact.
“Mobile phones contain precious metals and other materials that can be extracted and re-used. This will reduce e-waste and decrease the need for virgin minerals for use in other electronics. It will also reduce carbon emissions,” said the company which runs a recycling programme.