Back in February 2020, Safaricom announced that the new prefix numbers starting with 011 were available for subscribers in Kenya. The initial launch featured 0110 and 0111 prefix numbers and just the other day, the telco announced the addition of 0112,0113, 0114 and 0115 to the lineup.
Being the person that I am, I was among the first to get the initial batch of 0111 numbers. I couldn’t help myself and I thought the new prefix looked cool. However, the joy of having the new numbers quickly fizzled out as the early teething issues started to crop up.
At first, my line would randomly lose network connectivity, despite the fact that it showed network bars on my phone. People would try to call me and they would be notified that my phone was off – while it wasn’t. This was followed by issues with the 4G VoLTE connectivity.
The traditional Safaricom lines can activate or reactive VoLTE (read this if you don’t know what VoLTE is) at will through USSD *100*7# and selecting VoLTE from the menu. My new number could still access the same menu, however, trying to activate VoLTE would return an error that my SIM card is not 4G enabled.
To resolve the issue, Safaricom customer care advised that I do a SIM replacement and I did. Imagine my disappointment when the issues persisted. Eventually, my line had to be VoLTE activated from the backend in order for it to work (this was later resolved).
Yes, I know most people don’t even know what VoLTE, but those video calls are amazing and everyone should try it, anyway regardless of this, everything should work just as well on any new product as it did on the old ones.
While having technical issues is one thing, of which Safaricom resolved all of them, there is another bigger issue that’s been persistent over the past 10 months and that’s systems and platforms that we use not recognizing the number.
At first, mainstream services such as Google and Uber didn’t recognize the 011 prefixes but this was quickly resolved within a few days after launch. Other services like Twitter, still have issues with the 011 prefixes to date. My recent experience with having my Twitter account locked, was due to an error on Twitter’s side that didn’t recognize my phone number as genuine.
If you thought it was only international brands with issues, then you’re wrong. Locally, supermarkets such as QuickMart are having a problem with their system not able to recognize the new prefix when you pay via M-PESA. Other public services such as NTSA Tims also don’t recognize the 011 numbers, interestingly though, the eCitizen platform works fine.
Of course, there’s the issue of people insisting to start your number with 07, despite you explaining to them that there’s no 7 at the beginning – I have had a few deliveries missed because of this but this is easily solvable once the numbers become mainstream.
Don’t Get The 011 Numbers, Yet
While you may be like me and already took the plunge, or you’re thinking about getting a 0111 prefix number, my advice is don’t do that yet. From my experience and the persistent issues, you are better off keeping your sanity with the traditional 07 numbers until Safaricom resolves all the issues highlighted above.