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Telecom firms given 72 hours to deactivate SIM cards

By Taddeo Bwambale

Added 31st August 2017 11:54 AM

A SIM card switched off during the 72-hour period will only be reconnected when the user physically presents their national identity card to the respective telecom operator

Telecom firms given 72 hours to deactivate SIM cards

A SIM card switched off during the 72-hour period will only be reconnected when the user physically presents their national identity card to the respective telecom operator

Telecom operators have four days until Monday to deactivate all unregistered SIM cards, Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) maintained on Thursday as thousands of SIM cards went off air.

Today major telecom operators started the process of switching off unverified SIM cards, in accordance with the telecom regulator's August 30 deadline.

All mobile phone subscribers were required to have updated their identification records by close of business on Wednesday.

Subscribers are supposed to submit their national identification numbers (NINs) to their respective service providers.

NINs are unique numbers printed at the back of one's national identity card containing a trove of data about the card holder.

The UCC executive director, Eng. Godfrey Mutabazi told New Vision on Friday that the operators were expected to abide by the timeline set for deactivating all unregistered lines.

"They (operators) are willing and ready to switch off all unregistered SIM cards. All such cards are supposed to be off air within 72 hours," Mutabazi stated.

A SIM card switched off during the 72-hour period will only be reconnected when the user physically presents their national identity card to the respective telecom operator, UCC said in a statement.

There are over 22 million active phone users. Last week, the Prime Minister, shortly after meeting the telecom firms, UCC and security agencies said 98% of all users had registered their SIM cards.

Initially, the telecom operators were concerned that enforcing the deadline would affect their business in many ways.

MTN, the country's largest telecom operator with over 11 million subscribers still had by last week about 700,000 people holding unregistered sim cards.

Anthony Katamba, the company's head of public relations told New Vision today that they would switch off the cards but admitted that deactivating them would disrupt their business.

According to government, SIM card verification is intended to help law security agencies to track criminals and curb phone theft, fraud, threats and incitement of violence.

It is provided for in the Regulation of Interception of Communications Act, 2010 provides for lawful interception and monitoring of private person's communications in the interest of national security.

The initial mass SIM card registration exercise concluded in August, 2013, after which all telecom operators were supposed to have deactivated unregistered phone numbers.

At the time, subscribers were allowed to use driving permits, letters from local authorities or passports to register their SIM cards, since national IDs had not been issued.

On March 30, 2017, a New Vision survey found that telecom operators were still selling unregistered SIM cards, four years after the practice was outlawed.

Some of the agents for the telecom operators were found selling pre-registered SIM cards (registered in the names of other people), a trend security experts said was fuelling crime.

UCC subsequently banned the roadside sale of SIM cards and directed telecom operators to embark on fresh registration of SIM cards using national IDs as the only identification document.

In May following a public outcry after the operators switched off unregistered SIM cards, President Yoweri Museveni ordered a three-month extension of the exercise till the end of August.

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