Implementation of NCA punitive measures: Public outcry …as telcos block unregistered SIM cards

Hundred of Ghanaiansyesterday thronged various offices of telecommunication companies and service centres in Accra tore-register their Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) cards to be able to make calls.

This followed the blocking of outgoing calls and data services of unregistered SIM cards for 48 hours (two days).

The blocking is to be done once a week for five batches on rotational basis.

The National Communications Authority (NCA) on September 2 this year, directed Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) to start implementing “punitive measures” against persons who have not re-registered their Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) cards.

The directive was contained in a letter signed by the Director-General of the NCA, Joe Anokye to the Heads of MNOs and the Ghana Chamber of Telecommunications.

When the Ghanaian Times visited the offices and service centres of Mobile Telecommunications Network (MTN), Airtel Tigo, and Vodafone at Dansoman, Ring Road, Ridge, North Industrial Area, Accra Mall, Osu Oxford Street, Spintex Road, Junction Mall, Graphic Road, Darkuman and West Hills Mall there were long queues of people, with some arriving as early as 4:00 a.m.

At the Lapaz, Flat Top  MTN office, Michael Asiamasaid that he did not understand why his SIM card was blocked as he had visited the same office to register his SIM more than six months ago.

Another MTN customer, Evans Armah stated that he also registered his number about a month ago but got his SIM card blocked for reasons unknown to him.

He stated that he was also at the MTN office to find out why his calls were not going.

He expressed disappointment in the NCA for failing to carry out a gradual smooth registration exercise, saying the process was cumbersome and uncalled for.

Describing the long queues as frustrating and a waste of time, HafsaAbdulai, a trader at the Lapaz station said she had to close her shop to join the long queue to register her SIM card as attempts to download the application for self-registration had failed on several occasions.

She stated that she had spent more than three hours as at 1:15pm, all in efforts to have her SIM card registered but the MTN officials kept telling her and other customers to exercise some patience as the network was not stable.

“I was finding difficulty in registering myself despite trying for days now, today I am at the door step of MTN too it seems the situation here is even worst. The NCA must give the public more time. This is very unfair,” she lamented.

At the Kasoa Tigo Office, the Ghanaian Times spotted many people in queues expressing worry to officials who had been assigned to attend to them outside the offices.

A vendor at the MTN Service Centre at the West Hills Mall who gave her name only as Priscilla affirmed that she had reregistered her SIM card at the same centre yet could not make calls yesterday morning.

Bernard Quanson, a journalist, was critical of the NCA for implementing the directive when he and other applicants for the Ghana Card, which was the main identification document for the SIM card registration, were yet to be issued their cards.

Kingsley E. Hope also reported from Kumasi that some of the affected subscribers said they received messages from their service providers that their SIM cards have been blocked ‘partially’ for two days due to their failure to re-register them using the Ghana Card.

Mandela Martin Donkor at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology said “this morning I tried calling on my MTN network, but the messages I was getting were “your number is barred”.

According to him, the MTN number had been registered and wondered what was going on.

Meanwhile, the NCA had indicated that the measures being implemented this month excluded total blocking of SMS to give defaulting subscribers the opportunity to initiate registration if they so wish.

As part of the punitive measures, outgoing calls would be re-routed to Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system for a message to be played, before all calls go through every day.

BY RAISSA SAMBOU & ABIGAIL ARTHUR

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