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Simcard registration dividends

Police chief Kayihura and UCC’s Mutabazi announce sim-card registration deadlines early this year

Operators fear strict registration requirement will slow growth of subscribers

Kampala, Uganda | JULIUS BUSINGE | Telecom firms now feel confident in carrying out their business following the conclusion of a mandatory Simcard registration and validation on August 31, 2017, according to Godfrey Mutabazi, the executive director at the Uganda Communications Commission.

In an exclusive interview with The Independent on Oct.19, Mutabazi said, apart from managing security – which was the major objective of the exercise – telecom firms are now better positioned to offer numerous services including micro-credit to customers without asking for collateral because they know their customers well.

He said the country’s total registered mobile subscribers stands at 23.5million across the eight telecom firms.

“We have done very well; as we speak now everybody is registered,” Mutabazi said.

Uganda embarked on Sim card registration nearly five years ago but the exercise was delayed until the government introduced national identity cards in 2014 for clear identification of customers.

Mutabazi said UCC and telecom firms are now able to trace individuals who commit crimes using their mobile phones.

He also noted that with Simcard registration, SIM card boxing or grey traffic which involves incoming international calls into the country without paying excise duties to the government, has reduced as fraudsters now fear that they can easily be netted.

He said this vice affects so much the big players in terms of revenue losses in addition to loss of government excise duty.

But he said telecoms have reported to him a significant reduction in traffic caused by SIM boxing.

“UCC has engaged the operators and advised them to buy Fraud Management and Revenue Assurance Software which both MTN and Airtel have done to be able to dismantle SIM card boxing,” he said. “The other players are expected to do the same.”

International studies have indicated that network operators lose about 3% of the annual revenue due to fraudulent and illegal services.

The Communications Fraud Control Association (CFCA), states that telecoms lose over 15 % of their interconnection termination revenue through SIM boxing.

Some researchers put the total global losses from the underground mobile network industry at US$58 billion in 2011.

With this software, Mutabazi said, MTN and Airtel are creating industrial blacklists for numbers that are found to be SIM boxing and thus complementing UCC’s recently procured monitoring equipment to monitor all telecommunication services including tariff charges to avoid customer’s complaints over loss of their airtime.

Telecom executive’s raises concern

Anthony Katamba, the general manager for Legal and Corporate Affairs at MTN told The Independent in an interview on Oct. 20 that while they are following the legal provisions by government to register all their customers both new and old, a directive by the government to restrict SIM card sales in designated places – service centres and kiosks – would slow growth of Sim card sales.

This has also been made worse with the difficulties that people have to go through to get national identity cards in order to acquire a SIM card.

“Sales are a function of availability,” he said, “But we are following the rule from government.”

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