Mobile phone subscribers will from February 2013 begin registering their SIM cards in an exercise expected to take 180 days. The exercise targeting over 5 million subscribers is slated for February 1, 2013 and close on July 31.
The move is aimed at cracking down on cyber crime that police say is among the top three security concerns in the globe.
Crime experts say the successful completion of the registration process will boosts the fight against crime as it will enable police track down criminals committing crime using cellphones.
This means that the three telecom operators, MTN Rwanda, Tigo and Airtel will have to register at least 28,000 subscribers daily for the 180 days.
Difficult to track down criminals
However, experts say the exercise has to be supported by the public, following reports that it has become difficult to track down criminals who destroy SIM cards after committing crimes.
Police said the exercise is part of a wider plan to plug loopholes perpetrators of phone related crimes exploit in the region to commit cyber crimes.
“Phone related crimes in Rwanda are not a threat yet. But Rwanda is part of the global village, therefore SIM card registration is timely” said Rwanda National Police spokesman superintendent Theos Badege.
Setting a tight deadline, according to market players is to beat the December 31, 2013 deadline set by the East African Communication Organisation (EACO), a regional body formed by the regulators, telecom operators, ICT providers and postal service providers in East African Community to monitor the sector.
Should the exercise kick off, Rwanda will be the fourth country in the region after Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda to register mobile phone subscribers.
The director-general of Rura, Francois Regis Gatarayiha, said SIM card registration is a global exercise to protect transactions made using cell phones.
“Many countries across the world have embarked on registering mobile customers to establish a link between the SIM card and identification details of its holder,” Mr Gatarayiha told the press in Kigali.
“In case of criminal activities, there was no way of tracking them in the past. And for security purposes, once subscribers are registered, phone criminality is going to be reduced significantly,” he added.
Operators said they are ready for the exercise with MTN Rwanda saying it has already made preparations. MTN is planning to use the large network of service centres and sales points established countrywide to facilitate the process of SIM Card registration.
Mathieu Dutrisa, Head of Consumer Department at Tigo, said: “We are prepared to make the registration as simple as possible for our clients. We welcome this major development in the telecommunication industry.”
Brian Kirungi, head of legal and regulatory at Airtel, said the company has started drawing plans with sales agents to ensure the exercise is fast. He said: “We want to ensure that our sales team registers SIM cards as soon as people buy them.”