Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) has directed mobile telephone service providers to switch off all unverified, unvalidated and unregistered Sim Cards by midnight today.
The directive follows the expiry of an extension granted by President Yoweri Museveni three months ago, to enable all subscribers to validate their phones using National Identity Cards. Foreign nationals holding Ugandan phone lines are equally required to register using their passport details.
According to National Identification and Registration Authority (NIRA), data availed to Parliament last week, close to 32 million simcards were forwarded for verification to NIRA by nine Telecom Companies. These include MTN-Uganda, Airtel, Africel, K2 telecom, Vodafone, Uganda Telecom Limited-UTL, Smile Telecom, Smart Telecom and Tangerine.
At least 26.6 million of these were corroborated with the provided National Identification Numbers (NIN), 4.6 million cards were questioned after failing to match with the provided National Identification Numbers, and 36, 556 are classified as corrupted.
UCC Executive Director Godfrey Mutabazi says that the switch off will involve barring all incoming and outgoing calls and SMS, barring all data services, enable only mobile money withdrawals but disallow deposits or receipt of funds among others. He says that the process shall last at most 72 hours, starting no earlier than midnight today.
The switch off will also involve enabling calls for only emergency services, enable calls to customer service lines of the applicable mobile network operator and enable access to short codes 197 and 216 which are provided codes to enable persons with National Identification Numbers etched on their National Identity cards to have their Sim Cards validated within the specified period. The number 14-digit number is unique for every individual.
“All Sim Cards with a “NOT FOUND” comment against their submission from NIRA, shall be switched off during the 72 hour period,” Mutabazi said in a statement.
He added that a Sim-card which will be switched off during the specified period will be reactivated immediately on the physical presentation of a National Identity Card (ID) and related information at the premises of a service provider’s authorized centre.
On unused mobile money balances, UCC says that this will be retained together with the mobile money transaction records in accordance with the mobile money regulations as stipulated by Bank of Uganda (BOU).
Meanwhile, TheSpearNews visited different verification centres in Kampala and found big numbers of people still lining up to validate their Sim-cards. lengthy queues are visible at both MTN and Airtel service centres.