Kampala- Uganda’s communications regulator yesterday issued a Wednesday, March 29, midnight deadline to all telecom operators in the country to switch off all unregistered and partially registered cellphone Sim cards.
This was the third deadline being announced in the last five years.
It was also revealed by the regulator that already registered subscribers who did not use either their national identity cards or passports when registering, as required under the new guidelines, will be subjected to re-verification.
However, neither the details of how nor a time frame within which this re-verification will be done was announced during a media briefing called to communicate the ban. In effect, this means that the millions who had their phone Sim cards registered when the policy first came into effect in 2013, two years before national identity cards were introduced, should look at the prospect of having to submit their particulars for verification afresh.
Mr Godfrey Mutabazi, the Uganda Communications Commission executive director, yesterday said enforcement of the ban is intended to support the government’s crackdown on people who use phones for criminal activities.
The official, who had met with telecom company bosses on Tuesday, also revealed tough penalties awaiting operators who will not comply with the directive. A defaulting operator will be fined 10 per cent of annual revenue, have their operating license suspended and face other unspecified legal measures.
Sources inside UCC told Daily Monitor last evening that the regulator has scheduled a meeting with telecom heads for Friday where modalities of how the new guidelines will come into play will be worked out.
Police spokesman AIGP Asan Kasingye on Monday appealed to UCC to switch off unregistered Sim cards saying they frustrate their efforts in pursuing criminals.
“Why do we still have unregistered numbers? Those numbers should be cut off. The criminals drop the telephone lines after using them for criminal activities,” Mr Kasingye said.
Leading telecom operators, in separate interviews, said they would comply with the UCC’s directives.
“At Airtel, we follow strict Know Your customer (KYC) compliance guidelines as set by the regulator; and therefore we will implement the directive issued by UCC. We will provide all necessary support as required by our regulator to ensure that the security of the country is not compromised,” Mr Anwar Soussa, the Airtel Uganda managing director, said in a statement.
MTN Uganda’s general manager corporate services Anthony Katamba said the company was already compliant with the UCC directive and would move to implement other new guidelines.
“As MTN, we have fully registered subscribers. The improvement we take note of is that UCC requested we use national IDs and passports when registering. The other issue is that one ID can only register a maximum of 10 Sim cards,” he said.
In 2015, MTN Uganda disconnected more than 300,000 unregistered subscribers. By press time, it was not clear how many subscribers are unregistered or partially registered since the regulator and telecoms remaining tightlipped on the same.
To verify the registration status of Airtel and MTN Sim cards, dial *197# and follow prompts.