The New Times (Kigali)

2 August 2013

Rwanda: Over 485,000 SIM Cards Disconnected

A total of 485,867 mobile subscribers were disconnected at the stroke of midnight, Wednesday, for failure to register their SIM cards in an exercise that kicked off in February this year.

The six-month campaign is a prerequisite to regional integration under the East Africa Communications Organisation (EACO), aimed at curbing crimes committed through the use of cell phones.

Statistics from the Rwanda Utilities and Regulatory Authority (Rura) show that 6,110,138 SIM cards were registered, representing 92.6 per cent of the total mobile subscription base in the country.

There is a glimmer of hope, however, for those with unregistered SIM cards, according to telecoms service providers.

Telecom firms told The New Times that registration is still open to those who have been disconnected from making or receiving calls.

"Those that have been disconnected are simply barred from using the SIM cards and can neither receive nor send data. They will instantly be reactivated once they register," Yvonne Makolo, the MTN Rwanda chief marketing officer, said.

Makolo, however, warned that this window period would last 90 days, after which the unregistered SIM cards will be deactivated and removed from the network.

Pierre Kayitana, Tigo's public relations and events manager, said the process had gone smoothly and commended the company's clients for complying with the law.

Tigo received the highest ratio of SIM cards registered, representing 96 per cent of its 1.9 million subscribers.

Airtel saw 94 per cent of its 953,949 clients registered, while the largest telecom provider, MTN, received 90 per cent of 3.6 million SIM card registrations.

On deadline day, Wednesday, thousands of mobile subscribers with unregistered SIM cards swarmed their service providers to avoid the looming disconnections.

Due to the intensity, MTN in particular opened its outlets across the country for an hour longer than their usual closing time at 8pm, to serve its surging clients, enabling it to register an extra 45,417 SIM cards.

Available information indicates that Airtel registered over 60,000 on Wednesday, while Tigo registered 45,000.

Across the region:

To register a SIM card, a subscriber needs to have a valid identity card, while for minors, registration is in their parents' or guardians' names.

The SIM card registration exercise has been conducted across the region but at different stages.

Kenya is the only country that has fully completed the exercise.

In January, this year, more than 2.4 million unregistered SIM cards were disconnected by Kenya's four mobile phone operators Safaricom, Airtel, Orange and Yu Mobile.

Uganda is set to end the SIM card registration exercise on August 31, and subsequently disconnect all unregistered SIM cards. Tanzania completed the exercise last month and switched off over 650,000 unregistered cards.

The registration process is also on-going in Burundi, though figures could not be readily obtained by press time.

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