Photograph — Techweez

Effective May 1 2019, network operators in Tanzania will commence fresh biometric (fingerprint) registration of all SIM card holders in the country. The exercise includes registration of non-registered mobile subscribers as well as re-registration of already registered subscribers. The new SIM card registration system requires subscribers to present their National Identification Authority (NIDA) or its number for registration.

The re-registration exercise which has been enforced by the Tanzania Communication Regulatory Authority (TCRA) is scheduled to run from May 1 to Dec 31 2019. According to the regulatory body, the move seeks to address key issues in the sector that are linked to a weak registration system. Issues like forgery and other criminal activities that threaten honest subscribers and society. Furthermore, it intends to protect the interests of vulnerable subscribers who use mobile money services as well as those using multiple sim cards, thereby incurring exuberant bills. In a statement, Deputy Minister for Transport and Communications, Atashasta Justus Nditiye advised Tanzanians to use a single line for each network. Speaking on the biometric registration, he said it will stop individuals from holding multiple lines of the same network, “most of which are being used for fraud and theft.”

As of December 31 2018, there were 43.62 million SIM cards in the country. By stiffening SIM card registration guidelines, the regulator hopes to curb criminal activities. Foreigners and other special groups will have a separate arrangement on how to register their SIM cards, including the use of their passports.

In addition, subscribers will be allowed to own multiple numbers from different networks, provided they apply in writing to the regulatory body. The same applies if users own an additional SIM card from the same operator.

In March 2018, the regulator launched a pilot project to register SIM cards using the biometric process. However, to achieve an operational and secured communication system requires vital details of subscribers to prevent misrepresentation and impersonation. The latest directive which seeks to improve compliance with the SIM card registration rules will see that information obtained from registered SIM cards is linked directly to a subscriber’s NIDA.

Presently, there are eight telecoms companies operating in Tanzania and over 40 million mobile phone subscribers. While the government is focused on ensuring security, this development could, however, reduce the number of subscribers and hurt telecom companies.

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