The old phone handsets with small screens and short battery life are making a rapid comeback in Arusha, following the deadline of June 16, when many so-called smartphones in the country will be rendered useless.
The Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) has ordered that all counterfeit handsets and others that do not comply with their IMEI numbers will no longer work after June 16. That is one of the authority's efforts to curb crime and misuse of the gadgets since most fake phones can operate without detection.
Investigations conducted around the city by this newspaper have revealed that the fear of being blocked out has led to many residents of Arusha to opt for the old feature phones as these are said to be safe from next month's cell phones day of judgement.
The prices of the small nondescript phones have also gone up. The lower handsets previously retailed at between 20,000/- and 50,000/-, now are selling at 150,000/- and counting.
There are others who are ditching their smartphones simply because they are from unknown brands even though they could be genuine. For many people, unless their mobile phone handsets bear popular branding such as Sony-Xperia, Samsung-Galaxy or Apple's iPhone, they live in constant fear thinking their gadgets are destined for the imminent June 16 doom.
But the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) has assured Tanzanians that, most of the existing handsets in the country, while not carrying badges that can guarantee them bragging rights, are still genuine and will pass the June 16 cell phones day of reckoning.
"The number of counterfeit mobile handsets has dropped to a measly 18 percent as of late, from the previous 30 percent," pointed out the Communications Manager of the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority, Mr Innocent Mungy. He made the remarks during a recent training session in Arusha to highlight the June 16 fake cell phones doomsday.
According to Mungy, the number of fake phone handsets has dropped because many people rushed to buy genuine ones, following extensive mass education programs that have been conducted by the TCRA across the country.
He pointed out that as of this year the number of registered Subscriber Identity Modules or SIM cards has reached 36 million and counting; "Which is a remarkable increase from the 3 million SIM cards that existed in the hands of holders back in 2005," he revealed.
Still within the 36 million phone lines, it has been found that in Tanzania a country with a population of 45 million, a single person can own up to four SIM cards from different operators in bid to cut down interconnection costs.
Leading Cellular Phone Service providers include the oldest Tigo, formerly Mobitel, the leading Vodacom, the popular, Airtel (formerly Zain and previously Celtel), the latest and rapidly spreading, Halotel and the state-owned, Tanzania Telecommunications Company Limited (TTCL) whose popularity is rapidly waning.