The New Times (Kigali)

22 December 2012

Rwanda: SIM Card Registration Compulsory - RURA

Photo: William Oeri
A mobile phone user inserts a SIM card into a phone.

MOBILE phone subscribers have a six-month deadline to have their SIM cards registered. The Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Agency (RURA) has fixed February 4, 2013 as the official start of the registration exercise expected to end on July 31, 2013.

Rwanda is the only remaining member of the East African Community that had not implemented the process of SIM card registration.

The Director General of RURA, Francois Regis Gatarayiha, said that all mobile phone users must register before the six months elapse.

"During that period, we want all mobile phone subscribers to have registered their SIM cards with their respective mobile service providers," Gatarayiha announced at a news conference yesterday.

He added, "The SIM cards that will not have been registered by the said date will be deactivated and disconnected off their telecommunication networks and will only be restored after they have been registered."

Gatarayiha said that all new and existing mobile phone numbers will have to be registered to be activated on a mobile network.

"The need to register SIM cards is due to public security concern to curb criminal acts made using cell phones," he explained.

Gatarayiha observed that due to recent developments of mobile applications such as mobile money, and other transactions made using cell phones, many countries across the world have embarked on registering mobile customers to establish a link between the SIM card and identification details of its holder.

"In case of criminal activities, there was no way of tracking them in the past. And for security purposes, once subscribers are registered, phone criminality is going to be reduced significantly," he noted.

According to RURA, the registration will be free of charge and the institution is going to carry out awareness campaigns to enable the public understand and fully participate in the exercise.

Most Rwandans are connected to market leaders MTN Rwanda, Tigo, a subsidiary of Luxembourg-based Millicom International Cellular SA, and Indian telecom giant, Airtel.

Norman Munyampundu, MTN Rwanda Senior Customer Operations, said that the company has already done a lot of preparations to ensure a smooth process.

"We have got a number of service centres and sales points across the country to facilitate the process of SIM Card registration. The exercise will be quick and simple; people will buy SIM cards and show identification documents before they are registered," he explained.

Mathieu Dutrisa, Head of Consumer Department at Tigo, said "We are prepared to make the registration as simple as possible for our clients. We welcome this major development in the telecommunication industry".

Brian Kirungi, Head Legal and Regulatory at Airtel, said the company has started drawing plans with sales agents to ensure the exercise is fast.

"We want to ensure that our sales team registers SIM cards as soon as people buy them," Kirungi said.

What is needed?

RURA Director General said all one needs is a valid national identification (ID) card to have their SIM cards registered.

For minors with phones and have no National IDs, the SIM cards will be registered in their parents' names.

In case of organisations that want to register their SIM cards, the legal representative of any entity will send an official letter to telecom operators accompanied by the name of users, date of birth, ID numbers, associated telephone numbers and certificate of registration for private companies.

The companies also may choose to give the SIM Cards to its staff to register themselves.

Registration for non residents who have a resident ID card, the process is as the same as for the citizen with National IDs, for those without resident card, the registration process will be done manually by scanning and storing personal data in operators' database.

SIM card registration in Rwanda is part of the regional exercise under the East Africa Communications Organisation (EACO).

Rwanda is the only remaining member of the East African Community that had not implemented the process of SIM card registration.

In Kenya and Tanzania at least 85 per cent of SIM cards in each country have been registered.

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