A total of around 650,000 subscribers have had their SIM cards deactivated by Tanzanian mobile operators for failing to register then under new rules set down by the government. Airtel Tanzania disconnected 200,000 SIM cards last week, joining rival Vodacom which had already switched off 450,000 cards in compliance with the Electronic and Postal Communications Act (EPOCA) of 2010 which requires all mobile phone numbers in the country to be registered.
In a related development, the government of Tanzania has suspended a controversial new tax on SIM cards that came into effect this month, which saw mobile users having to pay TZS1,000 (USD0.62) per month per SIM card. Although the new tax was meant to raise up to USD130 million per annum for rural infrastructure projects, it was criticised widely by operators and customers alike, forcing the government climb-down. In announcing the u-turn, finance minister Dr William Mgimwa said that a fresh consultation would now take place in light of the objections and that it may ‘revise the tax if it is resumed’.
Earlier this month, TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate reported that local lobby group the Mobile Operators Association of Tanzania (MOAT) warned that the government’s decision to levy a TZS1,000 monthly charge on every SIM card in the country, could affect up to eight million mobile users in the country. The association had argued that the tax would likely impact poor Tanzanians who cannot afford the charges, and further, that the plan was contrary to the state’s goal of improving access, particularly in poorer rural areas.