East African mobile phone fraudsters will find it more difficult to commit illegal acts following Uganda Communications Commission’s (UCC) decision to register all SIM cards in use this year.
The registration drive, which is supposed to start at the beginning of March, is expected to run for the next 12 months after which unregistered SIM cards will be deactivated.
Uganda becomes the third East African country, after Tanzania and Kenya, to make it a requirement for mobile phone users to register their SIM cards in an effort to make it easier to track mobile phones and combat crime.
“With effect from March 1, 2012 all new and existing mobile phone numbers will have to be registered to be activated on a mobile network in Uganda.
The cut off date or deadline for SIM card registration for existing mobile subscribers is March 1, 2013,” said the UCC in a statement.
The regulator is relying on The Regulation of Interception of Communications Act 2010 which provides for the registration of SIM cards in Uganda.
The law states that SIM card registration process is intended to help law enforcement agencies to identify mobile phone owners; track criminals; curb other negative incidents such as theft, hate text, and incitement; and help service providers know their customers better.
“Failure to register is a breach of the law and the service provider shall not provide any communication service to a person who fails or refuses to register.
Your SIM card shall be deactivated and you will not be able to make or receive calls,” added the regulator.
The registration process is expected to be done by all mobile service providers in Uganda including MTN, Warid, Airtel, Orange, and UTL.
Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority was the first East African mobile phone regulator to require the registration of SIM cards.
A registration drive was held from July 1, 2009 with an initial deadline of December 31, 2009, which was extended to the end of June last year.
In July 2009, President Kibaki directed that all mobile SIM cards in Kenya be registered but the process did not start until last year, mainly due to lack of a legal framework.
Last September Mr Kibaki directed that unregistered SIM cards be switched off networks to protect the public from criminals as there now exists a legal framework to protect service providers from unnecessary legal suits.