So what was the point of registering SIM cards if monitoring won’t be enforced?
A larger part of last year, the Uganda communications commission (UCC) together with the telecom companies dedicated a big chunk of their time sensitizing the masses about SIM registration in an exercise that ended on August 31, 2013. After this campaign’s deadline, telecom companies Airtel/Warid and MTN claimed they had switched off over 300,000 and 327,00 respectively. But where the figures accurate?
We are not certain yet if some SIM cards were cut off, but it seems many were not, according to a research carried out by New Vision, unveiled that some people are till enjoying mobile phone services with unregistered SIMs.
The anonymous journalist who carried out the survey said;
“I bought my line in 2012 but I did not get time to register. They have never switched me off. I no longer receive SMSs reminding me to register the SIM card. I am not worried because I use my phone every day.”
The survey further goes on to report that, several clients from three of the five mobile telecom firms told New Vision that they have continued making and receiving calls and enjoying other mobile phone services like short messages (SMSs) without registering. Plus, it was also discovered that it is still easy to buy a new SIM card and use it without completing the registration. To an extent, of only registering only a client’s name (fake of not).
Some of the blame of not registering the SIMs on any of the Carriers was due to a few outlets around Kampala making it difficult for subscribers to register.
UCC has no capacity, to monitor these SIMs and also tracking the calls
The technicalities for tracking these unregistered SIMs requires a lawful interception gateway per carrier and also centralized node (by UCC) where every carrier is supposed to interconnect. According to our sources UCC has told mobile providers to purchase the equipment (lawful interception gateway), which costs over UGX 2 billion ($ 950,000) yet the telecoms have nothing to benefit from such a hefty investment. So, long story short, the regulator still lacks the capacity to determine unregistered in use and also tracking calls.
A source from UCC told New Vision that:
No one should deceive you that we can identify any unregistered number. It is only the operators who can tell. We are relying on the mercies of the telecom operators yet some of them are only interested in making profits, not the country’s security.
Godfrey Mutabazi, the UCC executive director, explained that laws bar the commission for keeping a database of registered and unregistered phone numbers. He stressed that the commission is done with the SIM card registration exercise and it is illegal if the operators are allowing people to use mobile phones without registering numbers.