The absence of a national identification system in Uganda provides loopholes that hinder large numbers of mobile subscribers from registering SIM cards, says MTN Uganda’s chief executive chief executive Mazen Mroue.
The slow registration process, according to Mazen, could further be blamed on low public awareness of the SIM card registration exercise, especially in remote regions.
By the end of December last year, MTN had registered over 5 million SIM cards out of a total of 7.5 million, or 66 percent of revenue generating customers, which the industry’s regulator Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) termed as ‘rather slow’.
In an interview with New Vision, Mazen said to speed up the exercise MTN has deployed digital and manual methods of SIM card registration, with the key registration centres being the company’s service centres across the country and MTN shops.
“The registration points have been increased over time and as of last month, the number of unique agents contracted by MTN has exceeded 8,000,” Mazen said.
MTN’s major competitor Airtel, which has used a similar approach, has registered over half of its 4.3 million subscribers since March last year. The company is however optimistic that the approaches it is deploying could ensure it attains its target by the set deadline.
“We are almost at 50 percent (registration). We have tents all over the city and we have also given people the ability to verify whether they have registered or not,” said Fiona Wall, the Airtel Uganda publicist.
According to experts, though the strategy used by the two telcos has ensured a chunk of SIM cards are registered, it has not been without glitches, especially with the UCC on record for expressing doubts on the “success” of the process by the March 2013 deadline.
The UCC’s executive director Godfrey Mutabazi had earlier expressed concern over the exercise saying: “I am not satisfied with the process because it is a nightmare. There is no national identity card.”
He said the UCC and the telecom operators are set to held a meeting to accelerate the process, but warned that mobile subscribers have to register the cards by the set deadline.
The UCC said it is undertaking drastic measures to protect the estimated 20 million Global System for Mobile (GSM) subscribers in Uganda by spearheading the SIM card registration process. The Ugandan exercise, which started on March 1, 2012, is part of a regional exercise that is also underway in Kenya and Tanzania, where at least 80 percent of SIM cards in each country have been registered.
The exercise has been completed in South Africa, Ghana and Mauritius.