Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Unregistered SIMs to be deactivated – NCC

Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has said that any unregistered Subscriber Identification Modules (SIM) also known as SIM cards in the country at the end of a deadline to be announced soon would be deactivated.

A SIM card is a smart card used in GSM and CDMA mobile phones to identify the user for billing and sundry services as well as a device for storing information in mobile phones for Security Information Management (SIM) purposes; a concept in data security and which could be transferred from one mobile handset to another as far as the handsets in question have cellular modules.

The anticipated deadline, from ITRealms Online investigations would not be less than six months and would not be more than one year.

However, indications emerged weekend at the end of a one-day consultative forum on Thursday, held at the NCC headquarters in Ab, which was attended by the regulator, NCC, major telecom operators and security agencies in the country that Nigeria would soon join the fray in compulsory SIM registration as obtained in some other countries of the world.

Affirming the possibility of deactivating unregistered SIM cards on the networks around the country at the end of the grace for registration, the Executive Vice Chairman (EVC) of NCC, Dr. Ernest Ndukwe said that this has become imperative on the prepaid SIMs on the face of its security challenges to the nation.

According to him, an Action Committee has been set up with a one month mandate and is expected to come out with a guideline on the mandatory registration including specific deadline for already existing subscribers to get registered or face deactivation.

“Unregistered prepaid cards may be deactivated by the deadline of the registration period,” he said, in a press statement made available to ITRealms Online.

Ndukwe also enumerated other countries where same action has taken place before now to include Singapore, Australia, France, Germany, Hungary, Japan, Norway, Switzerland and South Africa.

“So, Nigeria will not be the first nor only country strengthening controls to deal with the anonymity of prepaid SIM Cards,” he reiterated.

While highlighting the need for a time frame to be set aside when operators will commence compliance to ensure proper recording of the personal details of all customers who buy prepaid SIM Cards, Ndukwe assured that subscribers could continue to use their pre-paid SIM Cards as long as they register their particulars with their mobile operators during the registration period.

He also said that it was agreed the registration of SIM cards by pre-paid subscribers and the methodology of carrying out the registration would involve both potential and current subscribers.

Noting that though this was the first effort at systematically holding a discourse on the subject, the results of the consultative forum was 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.

As said by him, NCC has been deliberating on this issue for sometime in addition to other complaints received from security agencies and concerned individuals and corporate over the rise in 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.

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