Understanding SIM registration

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Understanding SIM registration

Post  nex on Sat Jul 31, 2010 7:44 am

Since the registration of Subscriber Identification Module (popularly known as sim cards) commenced on May 1st, the media have been awash with commentaries, sometimes not as informative as should be, on how the registration works, why it was introduced, where to access it and who will be affected.
Quite a few Nigerians, including journalists, have wondered why not much is being said about the exercise compared to some of the on_going commercial initiatives of the Telcos (which literally dominate the airwaves) raising the issue of onus of responsibility.
Generally, there appears to be some fuzziness regarding the whole exercise. Perhaps, I should acknowledge the impact on awareness through some editorial comments and opinion articles in major newspapers on the subject including a recent contribution by Mr. Obi Adindu, Senior Special Assistant, Media and Strategy, to the Minister of Information and Communications, all of which tried to provide some illumination on the subject matter. So, mine is an attempt to help fill whatever lacuna in information that still exists around the project.
Let me start by answering the twin questions: what is this all about and why? It is a regulatory requirement by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) that all telecommunications subscriptions in Nigeria be registered to a properly documented Subscriber. Indeed, it is a national security initiative intended to support the ability of Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs) to prosecute crimes facilitated by the use of mobile phones, by eliminating the anonymity that prepaid telecommunication subscriptions in particular currently confers.
It is a fact of life that there is always a flip side to everything, and as such the GSM revolution, as many would prefer to describe the emergence of mobile telephony in Nigeria , has brought about significant positive changes in the lives of the people.
And, quite naturally, it has also brought about some negative developments, unfortunately. Quite a few crimes in the country are no longer executed without the facilitation of mobile phones. It is against this background that the NCC, in consultation with the security agencies decided to introduce SIM Cards Registration. In the rest of this document, I will refer to the exercise as the Registration of Telecommunications Subscriptions (RTS) or Subscriber Registration, in order to avoid the misnomer of SIM Card Registration which could unintentionally suggest that only SIM Cards (GSM lines) are to be registered, while other telephone subscriptions like CDMA, etc that may not have SIM cards may not to be registered. It is important to state for the avoidance of doubt that all telecommunication subscriptions in Nigeria are intended to be registered.
The next logical follow up question would be how will it work?
Upon the commencement of the initiative, all new telecommunication subscriptions are required to be duly registered to a properly documented subscriber before they can be fully activated. Existing subscriptions on the other hand will be allowed specified time duration to be registered failing which the line will be disconnected.
Operators will register new subscriptions while the NCC will register existing subscriptions. Subscribers are expected to approach the operator or the NCC to register new or existing subscriptions respectively. Registration centres will be established across the country by the operators and the NCC for the exercise.
It is as simple as it sounds. While operators (telecommunications companies) are responsible for the registration of new lines (subscriptions), the regulator (NCC) is responsible for registering existing lines (subscriptions).
I can attest to the fact that Zain Nigeria (which I represent in the court of public opinion) has recruited and trained people to manage the registration process and the process is actually running smoothly in all Zain outlets across the country. It is expected that the NCC will commence the registration of existing subscriptions August 1, 2010. A 6_month period is currently specified for the completion of the exercise.
During the registration, the bio_data of the Subscriber – Name (Surname, Middle and First names), Age/Date of Birth, Occupation, Contact Address and Phone Numbers will be mandatorily collected for documentation.
Also, Biometric Information of the Subscriber–Digital Passport Photograph and Finger Print (left and right thumb and index finger prints_ will be collected. According to the guidelines, registration by proxy is allowed for family members, family defined as mother and father and children.
Now, here’s the catch for new subscriptions: they will be on receive_call only status (i.e. can only receive calls without the ability to make calls) for the first 30 days pending full registration by the subscriber when the line would be allowed full capability to make and receive calls. Failure to complete registration within the allowed time will lead to the line being disconnected from the network. For existing lines (subscriptions), anyone not registered by the end of the six_month period will be disconnected.
Most definitely, there is a learning curve to climb here. As agreed with the NCC and the operators for new subscriptions, a 3_month transition period will run from 1 May to 30 July 2010. During this period, the operators will participate in a Technical Committee set up by the NCC to review the conduct and performance of the exercise and address all challenges that would have arisen to ensure full functionality of RTS by 1 August 2010. Obviously, the RTS is an ongoing project and lessons would be learned and improvements enlisted along the way in the course of implementation.
Clearly and regrettably, Marketing Communication is low on this and one would expect the owner of this project, the NCC, to have embarked on a publicity campaign to enlighten the public and sustain their interest in and awareness of the exercise. Even with over one month, it is not too late to launch an awareness campaign so customers’ concerns will be addressed. Aside the low awareness for the exercise, there are other challenges, which the operators have highlighted.
These include but are not limited to the absence of a regulation issued by the NCC to back up the exercise to assure regulatory certainty and provide comfort to operators and subscribers alike. Without this regulation, someone can challenge the legality of the exercise and cause disruption or further delay in the exercise which, honestly, is now of critical importance given the deteriorating security situation in the country.
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nex

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