Tanzania plans to limit the number of mobile phone numbers an individual can own to a single line per network, in its bid to boost security and tame cybercrime.
This will involve a fresh biometric registration of all SIM card holders from May 1 to September.
Subscribers have to present their national identification card or its number for registration.
According to the sector regulator, the current system is not secure enough and lacks important subscriber details that are vital for the national identity card registration initiated two years ago.
“The information obtained from registered SIM cards will be directly linked to a subscriber’s national identification card ensuring there is no more misinformation or forgery of the documents; no one can forge fingerprints,” said acting corporate communication manager at Tanzania Communication Regulatory Authority Semu Mwakyanjala.
Deputy Minister for Transport and Communications Atashasta Justus Nditiye said the biometric registration will stop individuals from holding multiple lines of the same network, “most of which are being used for fraud and theft.”
He however said subscribers will be allowed to own multiple numbers from different networks by applying in writing to the TCRA.
The same applies to owning additional SIM cards from the same operator.
“In cases where one wants to have several SIM cards of the same mobile operator for different devices, that is permitted, but the Authority will need to be aware of that,” the minister said.
There are more than 40 million mobile phone subscribers in Tanzania.
An increase in cases of mobile phone fraud and cyber crimes in recent times has been largely attributed to the use of unregistered SIM cards.
TCRA set tough rules requiring telecom operators to switch off unregistered SIM cards by July 2013.
The Electronic and Postal Communication Act 2010 criminalises the use, selling and distribution of unregistered SIM cards.
Section 93 (1) states that “Every person who owns or intends to use detachable SIM card or built-in SIM card mobile telephone shall be obligated to register the SIM card or built-in SIM card telephone.”
Defaulters face a fine not exceeding $216.441 or three months’ jail time.
Individuals are free to choose a mobile service operator from eight telecoms companies in Tanzania.
They are MIC Tanzania Ltd trading as Tigo, Vodacom Tanzania, Bharti Airtel Tanzania, Tanzania Telecommunications Company (TTCL), Zanzibar Telecom Ltd (Zantel), Smile, and Benson Informatics Ltd trading as Smart and Halotel.
Mobile phone users can still access the mobile number portability service that allows customers to retain their numbers when switching to another service provider, with their contacts and other information remaining intact.
The mobile number portability regulations entitle the new network to manage the shifting processes on behalf of the subscriber within two working days after receiving a porting request.
“The porting processes shall be designed around a ‘one-stop-shop’ concept, whereby the customer shall start the porting procedure by contacting the new operator or service provider and the proposed recipient operator shall be required to manage the process on behalf of the customer,” said Mr Mwakyanjala.