Uganda extends SIM reg

By Omondi Julius Odera, Kampala, Uganda

Uganda’s Telecom operators have been given the boost they asked for, with the government announcing a 90-day extension of the SIM card registration process. The development brings to rest the fears that had gripped the telecoms industry that they were going to lose out a big chunk of their clientele who, for unknown reasons, had not yet registered their SIM cards.

The SIM registration process was initiated in February last year (2012) and was supposed to run for a year ending 2013 February. However, when the deadline period approached, many of the telecoms operators petitioned government through Uganda Communication Commission to grant them a grace period, arguing that the one year period was not enough to cover the whole country. The regulatory authority gave in to the pressure, granting a 90 days extension which was to come to an end by 31 May.

Recently, the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) met telecom operators to discuss the post May 31, 2013 deadline in which the telecom operators indicated their fears that the deadline would lock out over 20% of their subscribers, with MTN indicating that they still have over 15% of their unregistered subscriber base that they intended to register. The operators blamed low public awareness about the SIM card registration process, which affected subscriber participation in the exercise. “Most subscribers do not have proper identification documents that meet the legal standards prescribed, and as a result a large number of them cannot be registered,” noted Mazen Mroue, MTN chief.

As a result, the regulation body has issued the telecoms operators an extra 90 days validation period, which expires in August 2013. “This period will also enable registration of new SIM cards to continue as well as registration of existing ones. In addition the period will be used for cleaning up of the data of the already registered SIM cards, after which all the unregistered ones will be switched off,” noted Security minister Muruli Mukasa in a press briefing on SIM card registration status. According to him, 15 (91%) out of 16 million mobile telephone subscribers have so far been registered.

The telecoms operators have recently expressed their concern over the short registration period, with many saying they had used it to register as many clients as they could. Therefore the provision of the extra 90 days validation period gives them an extra time to validate the data they have about their clients and clean up their records.

However, the Minister cautioned telecoms operators and subscribers that there will be no more extension or grace period for SIM card registration after August 2013 and advised those who have not done that yet to take advantage of the validation period to register.

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