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Monday, July 21, 2008

NCC explains registration of SIM cards

Telecom regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has explained the recent plan to commence the registration of Subscriber Identification Modules (SIM) cards in the country, just as an Action Committee has been set up.

ITRealms Online recalls that a meeting was held at the NCC’s Communications House, Abuja, last weekend between the regulator, telecom operators as well as security agencies.

Giving details of the meeting, the chief executive, NCC, Dr. Ernest Ndukwe said that the move would curtail the usage of mobile phones in committing crimes in the country, especially on the prepaid platform.

A communiqué at the end of the consultative forum from NCC and endorsed by Head, Public Affairs, Mr. Dave Imoko, said that the meeting reached a consensus for immediate implementation of a nationwide registration of all existing and prospective prepaid mobile phone services.

Accordingly consensus was reached at the behest of the security agencies who have complained to the Commission that criminal activities perpetrated through this category of users have become a source of concern as disclosure of identities of the users are not required during the purchase of the lines.

He also said that an Action Committee, made up of officials of the NCC, the operators, the security operatives, the media and other relevant bodies was set up to work out the modalities and timelines for immediate implementation of the scheme. The committee is to present its report within four weeks.

He explained that prepaid mobile phone operators are those who use pay-as-you-go type of Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) and Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) mobile services, and could buy their SIM Packs, from street corners and shops without proper identification.

While the postpaid counterparts, on the other hand usually meet stringent identification conditions that make them traceable. But with the new development, all users of telephone services in Nigeria must be identifiable and traceable.

Ndukwe who also is the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, chaired the forum and noted that the objective of the meeting was to discuss the need for the registration of SIM cards by pre-paid subscribers and the methodology of carrying out the registration, both for new and current subscribers.

He further said this is the first effort to systematically hold a discourse on the subject.

“The results of the Consultative meeting are intended to contribute to an evidence-based policy guideline on a practical regulatory regime on registration of pre-paid SIM Cards and to ensure that mobile services remain a tool for social and economic development,” Ndukwe said.

Stressing that the Commission has been deliberating on this issue for sometime in addition to avalanche of complaints received from security agencies expressing growing concern about the use of mobile phones to commit crimes and the difficulty in tracking down the perpetrators who take advantage of unregistered SIM Card especially for prepaid consumers.

“It is a widely held opinion that every technological development has provided a new opportunity for criminality and the introduction of cellular mobile telephone services is no exception. As part of an ongoing holistic security review by the Government, the Commission by this Consultative meeting planned to work together with all network operators who issue SIM Cards to subscribers to agree a workable regulatory regime,” he said.

Underscoring that with the latest development, a definite time frame will be set when operators will be required to ensure compliance in recording the personal details of all customers who buy prepaid SIM Cards while subscribers could continue to use their pre-paid SIM Cards if they register their particulars with their mobile operators during the registration period.

Just as unregistered prepaid cards may be deactivated by the deadline of the registration period.


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