A total of 1,713,337 invalid mobile phone identity numbers (IMEIs) were switched off on June 16 by the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA).
TCRA acting Director General James Kilaba told reporters yesterday that 117,389 of the IMEIs were duplicate.
Preliminary estimates indicated that at least 600,000 mobile phone handsets were fake, but yesterday TCRA officials said it was difficult to determine how many handsets were switched off because one mobile phone could have up to four IMEIs.
“It is not that 1.7 million handsets have been switched off. It is IMEIs that have been switched off. One mobile phone handset can have up to four IMEIs,” Mr Innocent Mungy, TCRA’s Head of Corporate Communications, told The Citizen when clarifying the issue.
Mr Kilaba said invalid IMEIs were 2.96 per cent of all IMEIs in the country, while duplicate IMEIs were 0.09 per cent of all identification numbers. Genuine IMEIs were 96.95 per cent.
He warned those who duplicate IMEIs to stop doing that because they risked a fine of Sh10 million or 30 years in jail, or both in accordance with the Electronic and Postal Communications Act (Epoca).
Meanwhile, TCRA fined various communication companies a total of Sh651.5 million for violating licensing regulations on SIM card registration.
Mr Kilaba said the fines should be paid by July 30.
The six companies that were fined are Airtel Tanzania Limited (Sh182.5 million), Benson Informatics Limited (Sh17 million), MIC Tanzania Limited (Sh191 million), Viettel Tanzania Ltd (Sh106 million), Vodacom Tanzania Ltd (Sh96.5 million) and Zanzibar Telecom Ltd (Zantel) Sh57 million.
TCRA also asked the companies to submit to the authority by July 15 a list of their distributors, dealers and agents nationalwide.
According to Mr Kilaba, TCRA has also directed the companies to de-activate all unregistered SIM cards in the market and submit a report of compliance to the authority by July 31.
The switching off of invalid and duplicate IMEIs faced several challenges, including inadequate budget for countrywide public awareness. Other challenges include the habit of unscrupulous traders to sell fake phones to customers at reduced prices.
“Some people thought expensive devices or those bought from outside the country cannot possibly be fake. We got many complaints from those in this category whose devices were switched off,” Mr Kilaba said.
The switching off of invalid and duplicate IMEIs paves the way for the establishment of the Central Equipment Identity Register (CEIR), which will facilitate monitoring mobile phone communications in the country in accordance with tEpoca.
“Mobile phone service providers are also obliged to establish equipment identity registers that will help them monitor devices of their customers and which will be linked to TCRA’s CEIR,” Mr Kilaba said. This monitoring system will enable TCRA to block stolen devices, increase the security of communications and stop imports of fake phones.
Credit: All Africa