By David Mugabe
MOBILE phone vendors are willing to subsidise the price of handsets to support attempts to clean the market of counterfeit devices.
The Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) has set November as the deadline for subscribers and operators not to connect counterfeit phones.
Robert Ngeru, the Samsung deputy managing director for East Africa, said the decision follows a similar one in Kenya, where price rebates of up to 30% were offered when the crackdown on fake phones began.
Other vendors like ZTE and Huawei are reportedly also ready to offer price cuts to promote the use of genuine devices.
About 120,000 smart hand devices are shipped in every month by vendors, including ZTE, Samsung and Huawei.
UCC has said it will de-link fake phones from the country’s mobile network once the intelligence data base is set up.
Fred Otunnu, the UCC communications and consumer affairs manager, said the industry should not connect any new phones that do not pass the test of recognised IMEI because it is provided for in the law.
The International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number is a serial number assigned every genuine phone.
Otunnu says executing this directive will be at two levels, starting with the consumer who should ensure that they buy genuine devices from the point of purchase.
“If you decide to purchase the counterfeits, you will fail to connect that phone,” said Otunnu in a recent interview.
The second stage is that the operator who accesses IMEI will be obliged not to connect fakes because before the network is connected, operator networks search for genuine identity.
Amos Mulago, the Samsung country manager, estimates that almost 30% of the mobile devices on the market are counterfeit.
There are 17 million mobile phone subscribers in Uganda, according to UCC. The high uptake of mobile phone makes Uganda one of the most attractive markets for genuine and fake dealers.
Mulago says the biggest danger with counterfeit devices is that once a buyer acquires a fake device and after two weeks it breaks down, he loses hope.
“He says a particular brand is fake and never buys that brand again, affecting sales for the brand,” Mulago adds.
But there are bigger risks to using counterfeits. The duplicate phones are difficult to track and thus abate crime because of duplicated IMEI numbers.
Counterfeit devices most times do not have an IMEI number or use a fake one.
Counterfeit mobile devices can imitate all the facets of a genuine phone, making it almost impossible to identify a genuine phone from a fake one.