Re-registration of SIM cards: Telcos directed to block defaulters

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

The measures to be rolled out from today includes blocking of outgoing calls and data services for some unregistered numbers for 48 hours (two days)  once a week on rotational basis of five batches.

“Subscribers who fully register their SIM cards within the period they have been blocked will only be unblocked by the MNOs after the 48 hours to avoid the MNOs tampering with their systems intermittently,” the NCA said.

The directive was contained in a letter to the Heads of MNOs and the Ghana Chamber of Telecommunications, dated September 2, 2022 signed by the Director-General of the NCA, Joe Anokye.

The letter, sighted by the Ghanaian Times,  said the  measures being implemented this month excluded  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.

“All unregistered SIM cards of the MNOs (no registration attempt and stage one only) should be blocked after September 30, 2022. All unregistered SIM cards Broadband Wireless Access (BWA) should be blocked after September 30, 2022,” it said.

According to the letter, the punitive measures were discussed at a meeting convened by the NCA on August 3, 2022 during which the measures were compiled and reviewed following submissions by the MNOs.

It said the Minister of Communications and Digitalisation, Mrs Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, had since reviewed and approved the measures for subsequent implementation.

It asked the MNOs to liaise with the Electricity Company of Ghana, Ghana Water Company Limited and other service providers to ensure that their data only SIMs were registered.

 Additionally, the Authority asked MNOs to configure their systems to facilitate the use of passports for non-resident Ghanaians until December 31, this year.

“MNOs  shall put disconnected SIM cards in a holding category and current subscribers of these SIM cards  shall be given six months to register SIM cards , failing which these numbers will be churned  by the MNOs,” the letter said.

The SIM re-registration exercise started on October 1, 2021 is aimed at reducing fraudulent and criminal activities facilitated by mobile phones; build a SIM database with integrity as well as aid in the determination of accurate number of valid SIM cards.

The initial deadline of March 31 was extended to July 31, 2022 then for the second time to September 30 to give many people who could not register due to delay with issuance of their Ghana cards and other reasons to do so.

As of July 20, 2022, data from the sector Ministry indicated that the total number of Voice SIMs stood at 41, 979,398. Out of this number, 15,395,607 had linked their Ghana Card to their SIM cards.

 BY JONATHAN DONKOR

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