The government, yesterday, officially launched nationwide registration of SIM cards, an exercise expected to last six months.
The event that saw telecom staff members, clad in their respective company uniforms emblazoned with messages calling for subscribers to register their SIM cards, started with an awareness campaign march from City centre roundabout to Kigali Serena Hotel for formal launch.
The deadline for the mobile phone subscribers to register their SIM cards is set July 31, according to the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Agency (Rura), the implementing organ of the campaign.
Speaking at the event, François Regis Gatarayiha, the director-general of Rura, said SIM cards that will not have been registered by deadline will be deactivated and will only be restored once they have been registered.
"Phones have been used by people to commit crimes, like asking for ransoms after kidnapping, stealing people's money during mobile money transaction process, among others. All these criminal acts made using cell phones will be addressed," he said.
He stated that people can register as many SIM cards as they want under their names as long as they use them and the registration is free of charge.
During the exercise, all new and existing mobile phone numbers will have to be registered to be activated on a network.
Presently, telecom operators' registering agents are deployed across the country to assist in the SIM card registration.
Rwanda was the only remaining member of the East African Community that had not implemented the process of SIM card registration. The registration is part of the regional exercise under the East Africa Communications Organisation (EACO).
During the event, Jean Philbert Nsengimana, the minister of youth and ICT, flanked by the Rura boss, and CEOs of the telecom operators, first registered their SIM cards before the participants, who witnessed the event.
"I call upon all Rwandans and non-Rwandans in the country to participate in this important exercise. We are proud that SIM card registration is paperless work. It's done electronically," said Nsengimana.
He alleyed public fears that the registration aims at tapping people's conversations, saying "the government is not interested in people's conversations and, on top of that, phone tapping is very expensive and complicated."
Rura said subscribers can register as many SIM cards as they wish under their National Identification numbers (IDs). By dialling *125#, each subscriber can see the number(s) registered under their ID.
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, the MTN Rwanda senior customer operations manager, said the company started the exercise on January 10 with a pilot phase registration.
"We are advising our customers to present their IDs to our agents and ensure that their ID numbers and date of birth are recorded by the registration agents," he said.
Munyampundu said they have registered 600,000 customers since they kicked off the exercise and have deployed 3,000 agents to register SIM cards countrywide.
"On average, we register 80,000 clients daily across the country but we expect the number to increase since the exercise has been formally launched," he said.
Alex Mugisha, the Customer Service Manager, Aitel, said: "We register our clients at our showrooms, service centres, agents and retail shops across the country. We have over 800 registered freelancers to do the work and 6000 SIM cards have been registered so far."
"We started with a pilot phase a week ago, the process is going on smoothly and our system is built on the capacity to register 50,000 SIM cards daily."
Diego Camberos, the CEO of Tigo said: "the exercise is going on well and we have deployed SIM card registration agents all over the country."
Without divulging more details, Tigo boss said that his institution is committed to registering all their clients, both new and existing.
What is needed to register a SIM card
According to the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Agency (Rura), all one needs is a valid identity 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 and those who own phones without their parents or guardians consent will automatically be disconnected.
In case of organisations that want to register their SIM cards, the legal representative of an 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 possess resident ID card is the same as for citizens with National IDs. For those without resident cards, the process will be done manually by scanning and storing personal data.