Monday, July 12, 2010

Tanzania - Mobile operators are concerned that the end of SIM card registration will cost them dearly

[Tanzania Daily News (Dar es Salaam)] MOBILE operators have raised concern over the elapse of the sim card registration exercise today saying that millions of shillings by them and the government as well as millions of people's livelihoods will be affected.

"We as operators agree with the government on the importance of the exercise but our concern is the timeframe especially since there are still so much people who are yet to register. We ask the government to consider extending the time and not blocking the cards," Zain Tanzania Managing Director Khaled Muhtadi said.

Mr Muhtadi made the observations on Tuesday at a breakfast meeting in Dar es Salaam organised by the Tanzania Communication Regulatory Authority (TCRA). He said Zain, for example, would be losing 25 per cent of its revenue should unregistered sim cards be blocked by midnight today.

TCRA last year ordered all sim cards be registered beginning July 1, 2009 and December 31, 2009 but the period was extended to June 30, and that beginning July 1 any unregistered sim card will be locked for up to 90 days unless it is registered.

He explained that recent complaints by consumers of mistakes in their names and other errors related to data were a result of rushing to meet the deadline. So far about 4.5 million registrations have been received.

"We as a company has done all we can to motivate people to register but the flow is slow and some people just don't register. I urge the government again to develop another approach for this work," he said.

Vodacom Director for Information Technology and Billing, Mr Francois Swart said that the impact of blocking of sim cards should not be underestimated as it affects all parties - the operator, government and consumers.

"Tanzania has come a long way from it being very difficult to make a call to a phone being a necessity. This move will take Vodacom five years back after all the strides of making it a trustworthy industry and investment," he said.

Mr Swart added that the registration exercise has been especially difficult because it requires one to give out private data and that operators have fully played their part in ensuring the exercise runs smoothly and have tried to move even the remotest of places.

He explained that it was important to remember the size of the country as being very big and that because of the time constraint and the dealing of vast amounts of data, chances of errors was inevitable since the systems are unable to cater for all.

"Vodacom, for instance, has over 15,000 agents across the country supervising the registration of sim cards but even then things have not been smooth, this is after all a very big exercise," he elaborated.

Zantel Marketing Manager, William Mpinga expresses his concern about the timing of the deadline and subsequent blocking of the sim cards, thus, pleading with the government for continual dialogue and to assist operators by being creative and motivate consumers to register their phone numbers.

The Tanzania Telecommunication Company Limited Director of Sales and Marketing, Mr Ernest Nangi called for the government to look at the consequences of blocking sim cards with implication to investment.

"We support the reasons behind registeration of sim cards but I would advice that the government look for alternative ways of minimizing the negative impact brought after by blocking the numbers," he emphasized.

TCRA Director General, Prof John Nkhoma announced that the deadline would remain but assured the operators and consumers that all the problems that will arise after July 1 would be handled with the procedures that are in place to handle them.

Earlier this year parliament passed the Electronic and Postal Communications Act (EPOCA) of 2010 which makes SIM card registration mandatory as from now onwards.

The government decided to introduce SIM card so as to protect consumers from misuse of communication services, enable consumers to be identified as they use value added services such as mobile banking, mobile money transfer, electronic payments for services such as water, electricity, pay-TV, enhance national security and enable network operators to promote "know your customer" (KYC).

Sim Cards Blockage Worry Mobile Phone Operators

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