Uganda: Ucc to Switch Off Six Million Fake Phones in Rejuvenated Campaign

2 August 2022
Nile Post News (Kampala)

Telecom industry regulator, Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) has said that in a rejuvenated campaign targeting fake devices, it is among others going to switch off six million phones that are currently being used on different networks in the country in six months' time.

Telecom industry regulator, Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) has said that in a rejuvenated campaign targeting fake devices, it is among others going to switch off six million phones that are currently being used on different networks in the country in six months' time.

"The number of fake phones and devices in the market are many but we are looking at those already on the network. The ones that have been switched onto the network are about six million phones and have been identified as being fake or illegitimate," UCC Corporate Affairs Director, Fred Otunnu told journalists on Tuesday.

According to Otunnu, whereas there is an influx of fake mobile handsets onto the Ugandan market, they will only target those already connected onto the available networks in the country.

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He explained that in order to effectively do this, there is a system identified as the central equipment identifying register that identifies any device connected onto the network that he said is operated by both the regulator and network operators in the country.

"Enforcement of this is a very straight forward path. At the end of the day if you beat the other parameters of sneaking in these devices through the backdoor border posts, they will be denied onto our network. If you continue to import them, they will not go onto the network. They will be denied access to the network by the central equipment identifying register," Otunnu added.

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Change in goalposts

For many years, UCC has mentioned switching off of fake phones but the same has never been effected.

For example, many of Uganda's neighbours have effected the switch off of fake phones in their markets but also fake simcards but Uganda has lagged behind.

Speaking on Tuesday, the UCC Corporate Affairs Director admitted that whereas they had shown intension to switch off the fake phones, it was never implemented due to a number of factors.

He however noted that this time, some things have changed to necessitate the implementation of the move.

"We look at feasibility under the circumstances. The circumstances were not feasible by then. It could have been harsh onto the end users as well as the traders. We decided to give it sometime to engage the stakeholders to minimize negative impact. We have changed goalposts but for the better," he said.

He explained that this time round, tax collectors URA have been notified to ensure all phones that don't meet the required standards are not allowed into the country and that those that are able to be sneaked in will be barred from accessing network locally.

"The fight against illegitimate devices is a multi sectoral engagement. It involves other stakeholders whether government or non -government institutions and individuals. As far as URA is concerned, they are a partner and they are the gatekeepers. Going forward they will be playing their role to act in their capacity to control what is imported and what is not in terms of quality and standards."

Simu klear campaign

According to UCC, they have launched a six months campaign that in the next six months before effecting the switching off of fake phones will see members of the public engaged in a bid to create awareness about fake phones.

"This campaign is aimed sensitizing the public about the dangers of using fake mobile communication devices which in most cases lower the quality of service on communication networks thus affecting the experience of consumers and businesses,"Otunnu said.

To this, he noted that traders will be sensitized on importation and dealing in genuine phones but also consumers to be given knowledge on genuine phones.

According to Otunnu, if consumers reject fake phones, traders will not be tempted to import them and this way, they will not flood the Ugandan market.

The UCC Director for Corporate Affairs however emphasized that switching off of fake phones will only happen after six months when members of the public have been sensitized.

Effect of fake phones

According to Fred Muwema, the Director for Legal and Corporate Affairs at the Anti-Counterfeit Network Africa, a not-for-profit organization that aims to bridge the intervention gaps between the multiple stakeholders that affect and are being affected by counterfeits and illicit trade, fake phones have a big effect on the economy of the country.

"This is a very good campaign that will ensure we clear the market of fake phones. It is long overdue. You have seen cases of phones that explode and affect people but the most important thing is that there are electromagnetic waves emitted by the fake phones and are responsible for the so many cancers which are common in the country," Muwema said.

He noted that fake phones are responsible for the poor network and dropped calls that are very common in the country among phone users.

"If the country has a lot of fake phones, it means we are going to have many dropped calls. You don't need to have gone to school to know that the more dropped calls you have, the more revenue and business lost. "

He commended UCC for the campaign which will empower consumers detect genuine from fake phones but also have the power to choose the genuine ones.

How to check for fake phones

According to officials from UCC, owners of phones are advised to dial *197*4# on all networks and the phone's IMEI(International Mobile Equipment Identity) will automatically be displayed on the phone screen or sent in messages to the phone.

UCC says that in the message, also the phone type will be displayed and that in case the displayed phone type is not similar to the name on top of the phone, the device is fake.

Alternatively, UCC says the IMEI number can be found on the body of the mobile phone, usually under the battery.

"You can also *#06# to know your mobile phone IMEI," UCC says.

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