Senior journalist, Timothy Kalyegira, predicts an intolerable economic crisis if Uganda Communications Commission [UCC] insists on having telecoms switch for unregistered sim cards as per its directive.
In March this year, the executive director of the chief regulator, Eng Godfrey Mutabazi, directed that all none and partially registered SIM Cards be deactivated by 29th that same month.
“Only identification cards for registration will be national IDs and passports we decided to use passports and national IDs because other documents were being abused and duplicated by many people.”
He claimed that for the sake of the security, UCC would reduce on the number of sim cards one must have and that no one with more than 10 sim cards in their names would be accepted.
“The driving permits don’t capture detailed information of individuals like the national IDs and passports. People who used work IDs and other documents to register won’t be disconnected but will be given a grace period.”
He said many criminals have been arrested due to information from Sim Cards; hence, the need to register all sim cards to eliminate the threat.
“Companies that don’t heed will be fined 10% of their gross income and if they persist we can revoke their licences.”
Deactivating sim cards to cost telecoms
According to journalist and analyst Kalyegira, on Friday May 19 [deadline for registering sim cards], millions of Ugandans who don’t yet have national IDs will be switched off the cell phone networks.
“This will essentially cut the number of phone users in Uganda in half, meaning the other half still on the networks will also be rendered ineffective.”
He said if most of one’s contacts are cut off, then it reduces the value of one being on phone.
He said Friday’s action by UCC to switch Ugandans off will also undo years of marketing and advertising by the phone companies.
“Even as things stand, it is a struggle to get new subscribers or get those one already has to keep buying more airtime and data.”
He added: “It will create an intolerable economic crisis, just when we don’t need any more bad economic news.”
He said government would have to respond to this, given that the phone companies are among its top taxpayers.
In April, UCC issued a directive saying the selling of sim cards on the streets was illegal and punishable under Section 117 of the Penal Code Act, which means those who are deactivated may never replace their lines.
UCC also demanded that operators submit lists of authorised sim card vendors across the country to enable enforcement, all existing subscribers should present their National ID’s to their operators for verification within 7 days, lists of verified subscribers by telecoms will be presented to NIRA for Validation using National ID database, among others.
The five agreed upon documents to use are; Nationals- National ID, Foreigners- Passport, Refugees- OPM database and Companies- URSB
In 2015, atleast 300,000 MTN Uganda subscribers were disconnected for failing to register their SIM cards.
Brian Gouldie, the then chief executive officer of MTN Uganda, said the telecom had 11.4 million subscribers both partially and fully registered.