UCC unable to keep tabs on SIM registration

15 Jan 2014

New Vision writes that many unregistered SIMs remain active months after the government’s deadline for registration, despite orders for cellcos to deactivate all such lines at the end of August 2013. As part of efforts to reduce the use of mobile phones in crime, all subscribers were required to register their SIM by confirming their identity with their provider with official identification. Following the end of the registration period, Airtel claimed to have disconnected more than 300,000 lines, whilst South African-backed cellco MTN deactivated 327,000 SIMs. Nevertheless, according to the paper many users that failed to register their SIM have not been disconnected while an unnamed operator allowed new customers to begin using their SIM after providing a name, without official identification to confirm the user’s identity: ‘In the process people give wrong names yet their other details are not taken.’

Further cracks in the system emerged when sector regulator the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) admitted that it has no oversight of the scheme, and no way of ensuring compliance from the operators: ‘No one should deceive you that we can identify any unregistered number. It is only the operators who can tell. We are relying on the mercies of the telecom operators yet some of them are only interested in making profits, not the country’s security.’ The UCC’s executive director Godfrey Mutabzi elaborated, explaining that the law bars the watchdog from keeping a database of registered and unregistered numbers. Instead, the regulator is relying on operators and franchisees to enforce the rules: ‘If the operators are allowing people to use mobile phones without registering numbers then that is illegal. If you are selling SIM cards without registering the users that means you are doing an illegal act. Anyone using an unregistered card should report to UCC.’