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SIM card hawking to cost mobile operators dearly

Steve Umidha @steveumidha

Mobile operators have until end of this week to review subscriber registration database and subsequently suspend all SIM cards whose registration status do not comply with Simcard Regulations.

The Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) yesterday warned that failure to heed the directive will prompt a penal action against Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) and subscribers for flouting laws on SIM card registrations.

“We are urging MNOs to review their respective subscriber registration databases and confirm that SIM cards that are unregistered, partly registered, improperly or unprocedurally registered, fraudulently registered, and SIM cards with multiple ownerships are immediately switched off and no longer reside on their network going forward from their networks,” said CA director general Francis Wangusi.

And further warned: “Failure to which immediate regulatory action shall be instituted in line with the provision of the Kenya Information and Communications (Registration of SIM cards) Regulations, 2015.”

SIM card registration is aimed at enhancing national security by making it possible to trace details of subscribers engaged in criminal activities such as hate speech, mobile money con manship, extortion or demanding for ransom in kidnapping cases.

CA had in May 2015 issued an update on the status of adherence to the SIM card registration regulations which required MNOs to register all SIM cards prior to activation, after reports emerged of rampant hawking of SIM cards in the country.

The authority at the time directed mobile operators to suspend such SIM cards whose registration status had not complied with the law.

But a market surveillance and forensic audit undertaken three months ago by the authority found that the majority of operators had not complied with the law and had falsified information on SIM card registered, and that there were still some unverified active SIM cards in the market.

“These reports were contrary to returns from the MNOs that claimed total compliance with the SIM card registration obligations,” said Wangusi.

The forensic audit also revealed that a number of agents contracted on behalf of the Telco companies do not request for identification documents at the point of purchase of such SIM cards, with no verification of the identities of SIM card buyers as well as relevant documents presented.

Hawking of SIM cards, the audit shows, was still rampant, and in some cases, agents were charging buyers an additional fee for registration.

Other SIM cards were found to have multiple registrations with different identity details, with potential use for criminal purposes – an indication that operators were not in control of their agents.

CA said it will in the next three months undertake a further audit to ascertain level of compliance, as well as engage Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government on possibility of accessing the Personal Identification Secure Comparison and Evaluation System (PISCES) for online verification of passport details.

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