Mystery surrounds RICA disconnection data; Vodacom sheds a million subs as deadline lapses

4 Jul 2011

According to local news sources, South Africa’s mobile operators have yet to provide comprehensive details regarding how many subscribers were disconnected from their respective networks following the expiration of the country’s controversial Regulation of Interception of Communications and Communication-Related Information Act (RICA). The deadline for users to register their SIM cards passed on Thursday 30 June at 2200 GMT.

Although official disconnection figures have yet to be made available, Vodacom has confirmed it has disconnected ‘just under a million’ customers as a result of RICA. Richard Boorman, Vodacom’s head of media relations, indicated that those subscribers who have been disconnected will have six months to complete the RICA process and retain their existing numbers. After the six months elapse, all numbers will be permanently disconnected and ‘recycled’. Vodacom has said that it will retain its registration centres in schools, townships and taxi ranks until 4 July, after which customers will have to register their SIM cards at Vodacom retail stores. Elsewhere, MTN’s customer relations executive, Eddie Moyce, said: ‘Initial indications are that the numbers are not significant’. MTN also warned that any subscribers who go on to complete the RICA process after the deadline are likely to experience a delay before being reconnected. Cell C is reportedly in the midst of finalising its disconnection numbers, whilst the market’s most recent entrant, Telkom South Africa – which only introduced its ‘8ta’ mobile unit on 14 October 2010 – has claimed that it succeeded in registering its entire subscriber base by prior to the deadline. According to TechCentral, Vodacom, MTN and Cell C have all confirmed that they have already disconnected any customers who failed to complete the process in time.

According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, in November 2010 South Africa’s mobile operators were granted a six-month reprieve by the government in their quest to register the SIM cards of their respective subscriber bases. Two weeks prior to the cessation of 2010’s parliamentary session, an appeal was lodged to postpone the deadline for mandatory SIM card registration from the end of 2010 until June 2011. RICA was initially conceived as a tactic to crack down on mobile phone-related criminal activity, but critics of the act have complained that it is both an infringement on individuals’ rights to privacy and a serious waste of resources.