A senior government minister told Tanzanian parliament on Wednesday that phone users who fail to have biometrically registered their SIM cards by the December 31 deadline will not be locked out.
"Phone users will continue enjoying communication services even after the set deadline," Minister for Home Affairs Kangi Lugola told the House in the capital Dodoma.
"No SIM card will be switched off. No one will be denied mobile phone services for not registering."
Lugola made the statement two days after the nation's communications watchdog announced that over 31 million phone users who have not yet registered biometrically risked being locked out on the December 31 deadline.
Semu Mwakyanjala, acting corporate communications manager of Tanzania Communication Regulatory Authority (TCRA), said only 12 million out of 43.75 million mobile phone subscribers have biometrically registered their SIM cards.
Lugola, however, told lawmakers that only between 13 million and 14 million Tanzanians out of a population of 55 million had national identification cards issued by the National Identification Authority (NIDA), a prerequisite for the biometric registration of SIM cards.
In May this year, the TCRA directed that owners of all Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) cards to biometrically register their lines by the end of the year.
It said the move was aimed at getting rid of dishonest telephone line users, controlling cybercrime and protecting Tanzanians against those abusing the telecom sector.
The registration of SIM cards is mandatory under the Electronics and Postal Communications Act of 2010, and, under this law it is an offense to sell or distribute an unregistered SIM card, to use an unregistered SIM card, to fail to record sale of a SIM card and to provide false information or statement during registration.
In April this year, the National Identification Authority (NIDA) offered to facilitate biometric registration of mobile telephone numbers, which officially began on May 1.
NIDA said in a statement that the authority will implement the biometric registration of telephone lines across the country in collaboration with the TCRA and telecommunication operators.
Registration of SIM cards requires mobile phone owners to have NIDA identity cards or a NIDA registration number.