New Vision (Kampala)

21 December 2012

Uganda: Communications Sector Registers Mixed Fortunes in 2012

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SIM card registration

On March 1, UCC announced nationwide registration of all the 17 million Subscriber Identity Module (SIM cards) in Uganda, with all mobile phone holders mandated to comply within 12-months when non-subscribers would be de-activated. The registration of SIM cards is in line with the Regulation of Interception of Communications Act, 2010. SIM registration, a global trend intended to fight fraud and insecurity peddled through telecommunication, is also a regional exercise undertaken by the East African Communications Organisation for which Uganda is a member.

However, whilst the exercise kicked off expressly, not even the threat of de-activating unregistered SIM cards has attractive a rash in registration. Presently, only 50%- 55% of SIM cards are registered, although UCC targeted 80% by December 2012.

It is also unlikely that even the 90% target UCC set by March 1, 2013 is achievable, although a massive media campaign and outreach campaigns in 20 populous districts is projected to increase registration before deadline date. Even with those registered, the absence of a national ID or a biometric system renders authenticating information provided a Herculean task.

Be as it may, UCC will take heart from Nigeria and Tanzania that effected SIM card registration in the absence of national IDs.

Outlawing fake phones

In October, UCC, following in the footsteps of the Communications Commission of Kenya, announced a ban on counterfeit phones flooding the Ugandan market over fears on their health impacts and poor quality. UCC will phase the de-activation process, starting with a stop on in-flow of others into the local markets.

It has also instituted a short code system where, to ascertain their authenticity, subscribers send their phones' International Mobile Equivalent Identity (IMEI) - serial number signature imprinted on the inside of the device's battery compartment - to 8883.

A data base of all IMEIs provided by GSM Association, a global body that assigns numbers to all authentic phone manufacturers, has also been put in place. As it stands, UCC plans to de-activate fake phones in circulation by June 2013 in a process that will involve the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) and UNBS, the standards regulator.

On a lighter note, however, Uganda was elected to the council of Universal Postal Union (UPU) and the continental Pan-African postal Union in 2012.

Uganda, under the leadership of Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda the ICT minister, was also elected to chair the 35th International Telecom Satellite Organisation (ITSO) for the next two years.

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