20 January 2013

Rwanda: Govt to Switch Off Unregistered Phones

Photo: The Star
The deadline for mobile phone subscribers to register their SIM cards is 31 July.

Kigali — Rwanda's Utilities Regulatory Agency (RURA) says it will disconnect all mobile phones from the network if their owners fail to respond to the ongoing campaign of registering user simcard numbers.

RURA is currently working with the country's telecommunication service providers to test register simcards of mobile phone users in an exercise which started January 10 and planned to end on February 3rd.

In an interview with the EABW last week, Jean Baptiste Mutabazi, RURA's head of communications and media Regulation department said official registration will start on February 4th after ensuring the system works properly.

"It's an easy process which shouldn't last more than four minutes per single registration therefore we expect members of the general public to support it," explained Mutabazi.

The agency is working with MTN, TIGO and Airtel, the three telecommunication services in the country to register their subscribers and the firms, according to Mutabazi are cooperating through setting up special desks at each of their service centers as well as door to door agents to carry out registration of sim-cards.

To register, users are required to submit information as printed on their national identity cards as well as revealing their mobile phone numbers to the registration officers.

"We are open to multiple sim-card ownership so as long as they are registered and owned by one person," clarified Mutabazi.

It's a common practice for mobile phone subscribers to own more than one phone or multi-sim-card handsets carrying different sim cards but authorities say the registration process recognizes that so as long as all lines are registered to a single person.

After the official launch of sim-card registration next month, Mutabazi warns that anyone who will refuse to register their phone numbers will be switched off the network and isolated.

"It's for everyone's benefit; we shall not arrest or arraign anyone in court, we shall just isolate them by switching their phones off all the networks," revealed Mutabazi.

Sim card registration is being encouraged throughout the region in a bid to reduce on crime masterminded through mobile phone related services and for authorities to establish, maintain and properly manage mobile phone statistical data.

Rwanda's mobile phone subscribers are thought to have been over five million by September last year. Prepaid market share as of September 2012 placed MTN-Rwanda at 63%, Tigo at 34% while Airtel-Rwanda had 3%.

MTN and TIGO dominated the post-paid market share with the former having 69% to the latter's 39%.

It's also thought that fraud increased especially through the mobile financial services provided by all networks that saw close to a billion francs lost in mobile money fraud.

Through sim card registration, there's hope that police and other anti-crime agencies will be helped to improve in investigating mobile phone related crimes.

"If you make a call to stage a crime, it can be traced back to you and would be easier for security agencies to trace the user," observed Mutabazi.

He adds that with the new arrangement, mobile phone users should be more responsible on how and who they allow to use their phones.

"Because whatever happens with your phone, you will be held responsible," he warns.

Some local users have been previously expressing their reservations on the sim card registration exercise saying it's a ploy for Government to listen in to their conversations but Mutabazi dismissed the fears as naïve and unreasonable.

"The government can't listen in to over 2million calls made per single second that's not how intelligence gathering operates," remarked Mutabazi.

But he says there are efforts to engage in massive public awareness to dispel negative rumors about the exercise.

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