By Moses Walubiri
Anyone with a counterfeit phone has until July 1, 2013 to dispose of it, the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) has said.
UCC was initially set to switch off fake phones tomorrow, but its decision to postpone for another seven months a policy directive which is bound to affect thousands of people is informed by the need to mitigate the expected impact.
"We want to sensitize people about the features of fake phones so that the public and businessmen importing phones know exactly what they are buying or importing," UCC's Director, Technology and Licensing, Patrick Mwesigwa told MPs on the Information and Communications Technology committee yesterday.
According to the spokesperson of UCC Fred Otunnu, fake mobile handsets not only contravene UCC provisions, but they also pose "a security threat since they have no clear identification in terms of serial numbers."
"Equipment connected to the network is meant to be of the genuine type approved by UCC in order to achieve compatibility and avoid compromising the network," Otunnu said.
Otunnu noted that the ongoing registration of mobile phone sim cards is complimentary rather than connected with the need to stop the circulation of fake phones on the market.
When implemented, the policy directive will see Uganda join Kenya which switched off more than 1 million fake mobile handsets early this month.
In a related development, MPs heard that UCC is set to gazette new stringent quality of service benchmarks for telecommunication companies tomorrow, as it seeks to address complaints of plummeting quality of services.
The parameters which will see licenses of repeat offenders revoked will provide for financial penalties for blocked calls, loss of network coverage and dropped calls.
Other guidelines, according to State Minister for Information Technology, Nyombi Thembo, will oblige telecommunication companies to curb mobile span (like unsolicited messages), protection of children from inappropriate content, guarding consumer privacy and increasing transparency in pricing.
The issuance of these benchmarks and related punitive actions follows repeated complaints by the public about getting a raw deal from telecom service providers.
Earlier, MPs had rejected Thembo's claims of vandalism of equipment, bureaucracy and unreliable power supply as some of the reasons behind poor mobile phone services.
"There are issues that don't hinge on vandalism of unreliable power supply. But these companies don't seem to care even when their networks breakdown for more than a day because they are not effectively supervised," committee vice chairman, Vicent Bagiire said.
MPs Wafula Oguttu, Paula Turyahikayo and Allen Andrew urged UCC to crack the whip on any substandard mobile phone services. UCC is mandated to regulate the communications sector in Uganda.