UCC, telecom operators to meet over unregistered simcards

Friday January 25 2013

UCC, telecom operators to meet over unregistered simcards

Engineer Godfrey Mutabazi, (L) is assisted by an Airtel agent (R) to register his simcard. Some subscribers are still skeptical about registering their simcards. Photo by Faiswal Kasirye. 

By Nicholas Kalungi

Communications regulator, Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), will next week hold crisis talks with all telecom operators over the fate of the millions of unregistered Simcards.

Launched on March 1, 2012, national Simcard registration was planned to last for one year, with the official deadline being February 28, 2013, to check the use of mobile phone numbers for illegal activities, phone theft, unsolicited and threat messages among others.

Simcards that will remain unregistered will be deactivated. However, with just five weeks to the official closure of the exercise, millions are yet to register, a fact that is not helped by the low public concern over registering their simcards.

By yesterday, most of the registration outlets around Kampala were operating normally with no queues of people rushing to register.

In an interview with the Daily Monitor, Eng Geoffrey Mutabazi, the UCC executive director, said amidst the slow uptake and several setbacks as reported by telecom operators, the commission is still committed to the February 28, deadline.

“We are aware of the complexity operators are facing mainly in rural areas. The biggest problem is the absence of national identity cards that would make registration much easier,” Eng Mutabazi said.

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Mr Mutababazi is, however, optimistic that the set period of one year is enough.

“As the regulator, we believe one year was enough. We have not at anytime thought of extending it. But let us wait for the meeting with telecoms next week. After this meeting, I will be able to give a clear picture on what is going to happen next.”

Much as Eng Mutabazi could not reveal the actual agenda of next week’s meeting, a top telecom official who asked for anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, said that top on the agenda for that meeting would be pushing the registration deadline to a later date since about five million subscribers are yet to register.

Mr Ernst Fonternel, the MTN Uganda chief marketing officer, said: “For the good of the industry and the country, the regulator needs to review the deadline. From what is happening, many people will be left out unless there is an extension.”

Additionally, Mr Shailendra Naidu, the chief commercial officer of Warid Uganda, said his company continues to work on the current deadlines but would welcome an extension.

“About 65 per cent of our clients have registered. We are pushing harder for more to register. However, an extension will be ideal for us all,” he said.

UCC statistics put the number of telecom subscribers at 15 million people and over 17 million sold Simcards altogether.

nkalungi@ug.nationmedia.com

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