Region rolls out sim card switch-off

Saturday December 29 2012

By CHARLES WOKABI Special Correspondent

The crackdown on fake phones and unregistered subscribers in East Africa is expected to gain fresh impetus in 2013 as countries move to stop crime and stem the rising imports of counterfeit devices.

Kenya is set to switch off users of unregistered sim cards this week in a move aimed at stopping criminals who use mobile phones to threaten and extort money from the public.

The Communications Commission of Kenya has given mobile subscribers using unregistered sim cards up to December 31 to register or be switched off from all four local networks. Other countries in the East African Community are following in Kenya’s footsteps and have independently launched similar projects with the aim of beefing up security in the use of mobile phones.

In Uganda, the communications regulator has set March 1, 2013, as the new deadline for mobile users to register their sim cards and July 1 for the switch off of counterfeit phones. Tanzania also plans to rid the country of counterfeit phones.

The Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority says it is planning to run a campaign in 2013 to educate the public on the need to have genuine phones, before disconnecting users.

The Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (Rura) says it also has plans to switch off fake phones.

The regulator says the counterfeit phones switch off is an initiative that was agreed upon within the East African Communications Organisation.

On their own, mobile operators have rolled out various campaigns over the past few months seeking to sensitise their customers on the need to have their lines registered.

“We are acting on the regulator’s instructions because we also understand the motive behind the move. We hope to have all our subscribers registered by the deadline but we will unfortunately switch off all sim cards that will not have been registered,” said yuMobile chief executive Madhur Taneja.

Safaricom and Telkom Orange have also confirmed that they will comply with the regulator’s instructions.