UCC uncertain on registered sim cards as deadline looms
Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) was by yesterday unable to give the numerical progress of the ongoing sim card registration exercise expected to end on March 1, a year after it was launched.
In a telephone interview with the Daily Monitor this week, Mr Godfrey Mutabazi, the UCC executive director, said the overall performance of the registration campaign will be provided at the end of the exercise, reasoning that what is most crucial right now is for individual subscribers to ensure that their lines are registered as per the deadlines or risk being switched off in March.
He said: “Registration will be closed at the end of the month after which telecoms will be required to block unregistered simcards. Those that have not registered should hurry up and do so because; we (UCC and telecoms) agreed to maintain the initial February 28 deadline.”
UCC’s failure to provide simcard registration numbers is not helped by telecom firms, many of which have stayed cagey on their numerical progress. Save for Orange telecom which says that about 80 per cent of its 1.1 million subscribers had registered by end of January 2013; the others are only relaying percentages without declaring their latest subscribers bases.
For example, MTN Uganda says that more than 70 per cent of its subscribers had registered by end of January, Warid reports about 67 per cent, and Airtel more than 68 per cent. However, the failure to have a clear impression of the total numbers of the already registered and unregistered subscribers is in essence affecting all telecommunication stakeholders as no one can evaluate the progress of the exercise and forge a clear way forward.
According to the ICT minister, Mr Ruhakana Rugunda, simcard registration was adopted to streamline the telecommunication sector and also protect both the country and its people from individuals who use mobile phones to plan and perpetuate crime.
But since the exercise was launched on March 1, 2012, telecom firms have highlighted absence of national IDs as the biggest challenge to registering their subscribers mainly in rural areas. This, they believed, has slowed what would have been a faster exercise.
Last week, a journalists’ body, Human Rights Network for Journalists (HRNJ) filed an application to court seeking an injunction to stop UCC from blocking sim cards of unregistered subscribers on the stated deadline, on grounds that the whole exercise is illegal as there is no parliamentary approval.