Ugandan mobile operators Airtel, Africell and MTN have temporarily ceased all sales of new SIM cards until they gain direct access to the National Identification & Registration Authority (NIRA) database, in response to new guidelines issued by the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), the Independent newspaper reports. All three cellcos issued statements on Thursday confirming the development, having previously been ordered by the UCC to immediately block SIM sales via street vendors, street agents or any other persons/entities unlicensed by a municipal/town authority in a crackdown on illegal unregistered SIMs. Legislation requires all operators to register all mobile customer details using national ID cards.
MTN’s statement – echoed by its rivals – said: ‘As per this directive, MTN Uganda shall need to acquire and install card readers at its respective service centres to validate national identification information before the activation of a new SIM card. This information will be instantly verified electronically against the national data base maintained by the NIRA. MTN does not currently have direct access to the NIRA database, therefore the sale of new SIM cards will be temporarily stopped. We are working with the UCC and the NIRA to implement the necessary technical requirements to enable this as soon as possible. MTN regrets any inconvenience caused.’