Rwanda Focus (Kigali)

4 February 2013

Rwanda: SIM Card Registration Gets Under Way

The Rwanda Utilities and Regulatory Agency (RURA), the National ID Agency (NIDA), the ministry of youth and ICT and telecom companies yesterday officially launched the SIM card registration (SCR).

Starting on February 4, all pre-paid mobile subscribers in Rwanda are required to register their SIM card during a 6-month period that will end on July 31. MTN Rwanda, Tigo Rwanda and Airtel Rwanda all have already trained and deployed registration agents across the country. Those who will not be having had registered their SIM cards after the deadline will be disconnected.

"We are encouraging all citizens to start registering their SIM cards," said François-Régis Gatarayiha, RURA's Director General. "This exercise is due to EAC resolutions where all countries agreed to implement the SCR, which is related to the security of mobile subscribers -- such as fighting mobile-based crimes -- in the region."

More benefits that come with SCR include easy SIM swap as well as mobile transactions because your credentials will be on file. Tracking phone theft will also be easier.

"The process is easy and straightforward. We have deployed more than 6,000 freelancers all around the country to help our subscribers," said Pierre Kayitana, Tigo Rwanda's PR officer. "We started the soft launch early last week and we have registered approximate 100,000 SIM cards so far."

Jean-Baptiste Mutabazi, RURA's head of communication and media, explained that after having established the National ID database, and looking where the country has reached and where it is heading in terms of ICT, the government of Rwanda has chosen to make SCR paperless and cost effective.

The process of registering the SIM cards is instant and swift. You'll have to bring the SIM card together with your ID to respective agents who will register your number on the go using a mobile phone. After checking the validity of your ID from NIDA, you'll then receive an SMS confirmation immediately. The whole process is immediate, and typically less than a couple of minutes.

"The process has been managed well by RURA. They have set up a technical committee involving all the operators and NIDA," said Marcellin Paluku, Airtel Rwanda's country manager. "This is the first paperless SCR I've seen, and it's totally different from what happens in other African countries where the process rather kills recruitment of new customers because of long and tiresome lines of people waiting to submit papers."

He further added that Airtel Rwanda has so far registered about 50,000 SIM cards during their soft launch that began in January.

According to Norman Munyampundu, MTN Rwanda's senior customer operations manager, the operator has so far registered 600,000 SIM cards countrywide during its soft launch.

Jean-Philbert Nsengimana, the Minister of Youth and ICT assured citizens that they shouldn't in any way worry about the police or operators eavesdropping on their private conversations. "This is practically impossible and no one has interest in that," he said. "I'm sure there might be around 200,000 people having a phone conversation right now; do you think operators have employed equal staff to secretly listen to every conversation?"

There's no limit to individuals to register a certain number of SIM cards. In case you need to know how many numbers are registered under your name, or just want to check whether there's no number assigned to your name mistakenly, you can always dial *125#.

EAC countries that have implemented the SCR are Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda. Currently, 98% of mobile subscribers in Rwanda are using pre-paid system.

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