Telecom companies to block 340,000 unverified Simcards next week

Telecom companies have announced that starting November, 12, all simcards that have not been re-verified will be blocked and customers will not be able to make calls and other related services.

Addressing a joint press briefing at the UCC headquarters in Bugoloobi, Denis Kakonge, the director for legal and regulatory services at Airtel Uganda said the re-verification is not for all customers but rather only those who have received messages from the telecom company asking them to do so.

“Not all customers are affected. There are those who registered with their national IDs and their details didn’t match are the ones targeted,” Kakonge said.

He explained that in 2018 and thereabouts, some people who bought simcards registered them by sending their details including photos and national ID copies  to the telecom companies  and not physically appearing.

He noted that the re-verification exercise is meant to ensure the details match.

“Now we ask a customer to go physically to the data centre to ensure their fingerprints, photos and national IDs are captured and matched,” Kakonge said.

With a number of Ugandans not in possession of their national IDs, many hoped to use the National Identification Numbers(NINs) whereas others don’t have original copies but rather  duplicate copies of their national IDs  but according to officials from the telecom companies, the law only allows original copies of the documents.

“If you don’t have national ID, the law requires us to use national ID and the original copy. It has a bar code at back which shows your details and fingerprint that match with the other details. Each number must be reverified with the national ID,” Airtel’s Kakonge said.

“If a customer is not contacted by the telecom company asking them to re-verify their number, it means they are safe. They don’t have to appear for re-verification.”

Julius Mboize, a senior manager in charge of regulatory services at MTN Uganda said the re-verification is done physically and each simcard owner must present their own simcard.

The Airtel Uganda Public Relations Manager David Birungi said the company has put an incentive to give data bundles and airtime to customers who re-verify their details between today and the deadline next week.

UCC speaks out

Abdul Salam Waiswa, the head of legal affairs at the Uganda Telecommunication Commission(UCC) said the re-verification was necessitated by the coming into force of the Regulation of Interception of Communications Regulations ,2023 early this year.

He insisted that the rev-verification is for only those who didn’t physically verify their details prior to passing of the law.

“This process is not for every customer on the database. It is only for those few customers whose verification was not in accordance with the new regulations. Those who are affected are less than 1%There are those whose biometrics don’t match with National ID and photos could be not matching. It is those who are needed to re-verify.”

“This is trying to streamline the database to ensure the simcards are in line with the legislation.”

The latest UCC figures indicate that there are 34.3 million mobile phone subscriptions in the country  and 1% of this is 340,000 subscribers.

According to Waiswa, the new regulation requires that a person can not have more than 10 simcards registered on a single national ID.

“This re-verification exercise is will help allow those who had more than 10 simcards registered on one national ID to go out and rectify this. Those with money on their mobile money accounts should rest assured that even if the numbers are blocked, their money will remain safe and they can contact their telecom company to see how to redeem it.”

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