Government is set to switch counterfeit mobile handsets off the networks, according to a top official in Rwanda Utilities Regulator Agency (RURA).
Regis Gatarayiha, the Director General of RURA, told The New Times yesterday that fake mobile phone handsets were affecting the quality of communication and posing a health risk to the users, warning that very soon; they would be switched off the networks.
The campaign to blacklist fake mobile phone that kicked off in Kenya on Monday saw millions of fake gadgets blocked from networks of all mobile phone operators in the country.
"It's an initiative that has been agreed upon within the East African Communications Organisation (EACO) and for the case of Rwanda, we are still working out a plan, soon we shall announce the directive to switch the fake phones off the networks," the RURA boss said.
EACO is the regional body which brings together regulatory, postal, telecommunications and broadcasting organisations from all the five member-states of the EAC.
Gatarayiha stated that all unregistered handsets and those with non-authentic International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) numbers are considered to be counterfeit and will soon be disconnected from networks.
Despite the fact that RURA does not have statistics of fake mobile handsets operating in the country, most people will likely be affected, especially mobile phone dealers and consumers.
"Every phone has to be certified by Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM), the counterfeit phones don't have OEM certification, so they are easy to identify. We have been using electronic equipment type approval to determine fake phones but somehow people find a way of sneaking them into the country," RURA Director General explained.
"We started seeing a decrease since we initiated a mandatory approval of all electronic equipment that come into the country since 2010. But we know there are some that have managed to sneak into the market and definitely they will be switched off."
Fake mobiles include counterfeits, knock-offs, imitations, copycats and replicas, which steal design and trademarks to deceive consumers and all fake phones are produced without government certification and are sold illegally on the world's black market.
In the neighbouring Uganda, a similar directive is soon going to be effected by the Uganda Communications Commission.
In Rwanda, statistics indicate that about 47.5 per cent of Rwandans now have access to a mobile phone.
Most Rwandans are connected to market leaders MTN Rwanda, followed by Tigo, a subsidiary of Luxembourg-based Millicom International Cellular SA, and a new player in the market, Indian telecom giant, Airtel.
Counterfeit products are usually marketed as cheaper products than the original ones but people just buy them because they are cheap.
In order to detect a fake phone: If you are using a Nokia phone, type in *#06# and a serial number should be displayed. If your phone is unable to do this, most likely it is fake.
However, Gatarayiha pointed out that every phone when you type in it *#06# shows international mobile equipment identity and what counterfeiters do, they manipulate the code and duplicate it on fake phones, even the counterfeit phones will bear the same number.
"We are going to work on a methodology to disconnect all fake phones off the network and we shall definitely work with telecom companies because at the end of the day, they are the ones who are going to switch them off their networks."