The long awaited subscriber identification module (SIM) card registration will officially kick off next month, the telecom sector watchdog has confirmed.
The exercise, which was delayed for two years, is targeting 5.2 million subscribers for the three telecom operators; Airtel, MTN and Tigo.
"We started at the beginning of this month with test registration, but we shall launch the project officially on February 4," Jean Baptiste Mutabazi, the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA) head of communication, told Business Times yesterday.
"This exercise will take six months and we expect all mobile phone owners to have registered their SIM cards by then," Mutabazi added.
Rwanda and Burundi were the only countries in the East African Community (EAC) trade bloc that had not yet implemented the SIM card registration exercise as required under the East Africa Communications Organisation (EACO) to help to curb crimes related to mobile phone usage.
Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania are at different levels of sim card registration. In Uganda, the exercise will end in March.
François Regis Gatarayiha, the RURA Director General, had earlier said that SIM cards that would not have been registered by the end of the exercise would be disconnected.
With the recent growth of mobile money services in the country, SIM card registration is vital to assure subscribers that their money 'banked' on phone accounts, is safe. Registration of one's card establishes a connection between the SIM card and identification details of the holder.
Mutabazi said for a person to register their SIM card, they need a valid national identification (ID) card. For minors with phones, their SIM cards will be registered in their parents' names.
Non-residents, with resident IDs, will follow the same procedure as citizens with national IDs. Those without resident cards will be registered manually.
Mutabazi noted that the exercise would not affect the deadline to switch off fake mobile phones by the regulator.
Telecom operators MTN, Tigo and Airtel said were optimistic and ready for the exercise, saying the registration process would likely to meet the deadline. Experts say that since many people have national IDs and there is use of information communication technologies, it would be easier to trace the identification of subscribers.