The Observer (Kampala)

24 February 2013

Uganda: Telecoms Ask for More Time for SIM Card Registration

After a year of calls for mobile phone subscribers to register their Sim cards, the turn-up remains poor, just three days to the deadline.

Worse still, the registration process has been beset by disorganisation, with the network systems failing to recognize numbers that were registered months earlier. In the end, there are calls to have the registration period extended beyond the March 1 deadline, the date the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) has promised to disconnect all those lines that might not be registered.

Patience Tumwesigye Tindyebwa, Orange Uganda's marketing and brand manager, told The Observer they would wish to see the deadline extended incase not all their subscribers were registered.

"Our aim is to make sure that all our subscribers are registered. If it so happens and the deadline reaches when we haven't finished registering them, we would like to see the deadline extended," she said. "The good news is that we have registered about 75% of our subscribers. We are hoping in the remaining days we reach all of them," she added.

Telcom firms like Orange have a selfish interest in the deadline being extended. Blocking unregistered subscribers will mean losing revenue. There is a bigger economic impact too. The disconnection could also injure the tax collections by Uganda Revenue Authority. The telecom industry is one of the three largest taxpayers.

In a way, the telecom companies should share the blame on the low numbers of registered subscribers. UCC spokesperson Fred Otunnu says three out of four Ugandans - or 75% - have registered so far. Pius Asiimwe's case is a typical example of why some companies are being accused of failing the process of registration. Asiimwe says he registered with one of the agents of MTN and thought he was done with the hassle. Instead, he was later told that his "registration had not been completed."

Telecom firms say they have encountered challenges such as absence of national identity cards, and the suspicions behind the whole process. Some sections of the public think the exercise is part of a wider spying machinery by the state. The government says the process is purely meant to curb fraud and grab any criminals.

UCC's Fred Otunnu on Friday insisted the registration deadline would not be changed.

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