Confusion continued to reign in Tanzania’s telecoms industry this past week as the official December 31 deadline for mobile phone users to reregister their lines with service providers drew closer, with a compliance rate of less than 50 per cent so far.
Figures from the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority show that by December 10, a total of 19.6 million Identity Module (SIM) cards had been registered biometrically with 27.5 million SIM cards still to go.
The poor compliance so far has been attributed to delays in the issuance of national identity cards to citizens, as TCRA continued to insist on the ID cards or numbers being a compulsory requirement for SIM card biometric registration.
Leading service provider Airtel Tanzania appeared to add to the increasing turmoil by blocking unregistered SIM cards.
Airtel subscribers complained about not being able to make calls from Thursday, although they continued to receive calls from other telecom networks.
"I called Airtel customer care and they said I need to reregister my SIM card to access all services,” said Fredrick Mabele, a Dar es Salaam resident.
Airtel Tanzania officials were unavailable for comment on Friday while TCRA spokesperson Semu Mwakyanjala said the agency was unaware of the matter.
“Telecom service providers normally apologise to their customers in cases of problems like network failure. As for now, all SIM cards are still valid until December 31, after which all unregistered SIM cards will be deactivated," Mr Mwakyanjala said.
According to TCRA figures, Airtel Tanzania had registered only 5.3 million of its total 12.5 million subscribers by last week, behind both industry leaders Vodacom Tanzania (6.2 million registered out of 15.3 million) and Tigo Tanzania (5.8 million out of 12.4 million).