UCC, MTN clash over harmonising short codes

By Vision Reporter

The Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) and telecom company MTN are on a collision path over the commission's directive to telecom companies to harmonise their three-digit short codes.

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By Faridah Kulabako

The Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) and telecom company MTN are on a collision path over the commission’s directive to telecom companies to harmonise their three-digit short codes.


The directive meant that effective December 1, 2014, all telecoms would start using *130* as recharge voucher number followed by # to recharge.

They would also use *131# to check account balance and 100 for customer assistance.

But on Friday, MTN subscribers were still using *156# to check account balance and *155* voucher number# to recharge.

UCC said the move would enhance consumer experience, adding that a provider who defies the directive will be sanctioned.

But the MTN general manager for corporate services, Anthony Katamba, said the telecom firm has no plan to harmonise the codes. He added that MTN has been using its own codes (123 for customer care, 100 to retrieve voice mails, *156# to check account balance and *155* voucher number# to recharge) for over 15 years and that changing them will confuse its customers.

“We cannot effect the directive because subscribers are used to these codes. We got the codes from UCC, and why is it (UCC) asking us to change them now?,” he asked.

He noted that there is no point in harmonising the codes because UCC is planning to adopt a Mobile Number Portability (MNP).

The MNP enables mobile telephone users to retain their mobile telephone numbers when changing from one mobile network operator to another.

The UCC director for broadcasting, Fred Otunnu, however, said sanctions will be imposed on players who will not comply.

“Defying a commission directive attracts sanctions which could be a fine, suspension or warning,” Otunnu said.

Harmonisation seeks to improve user experience by enabling mobile phone subscribers to recharge, check their phone balances or get customer care services using similar codes, regardless of the service provider.

Orange Telecom and Airtel are already using the codes, and Uganda Telecom sent out text messages to its subscribers last week informing them of the new short codes.

There are nine telecom players in the market. They are MTN, Airtel, Uganda Telecom, Orange, K2, Smart, Smile and Vodafone, the latest entrant.

UCC, MTN clash over harmonising short codes