RURA to revise SIM card registration rules

In light of growing sim card related fraud, the Rwanda Utilities and Regulatory Authority is set to introduce new SIM-card registration regulations. The telecom industry has in recent months witnessed multiple forms of fraud ranging from sim boxing, and identity theft to phishing.
MTN customers register their SIM cards during a past registration exercise. / File
MTN customers register their SIM cards during a past registration exercise. / File

In light of growing sim card related fraud, the Rwanda Utilities and Regulatory Authority is set to introduce new SIM-card registration regulations.

The telecom industry has in recent months witnessed multiple forms of fraud ranging from sim boxing, and identity theft to phishing.

In December last year, Police arrested three suspects operating from Gisenyi and confiscated equipment and thousands of sim cards used in the fraudulent sim boxing activities.

The activities had seen MTN Rwanda and the regulator lose a total of Rwf1 billion in revenue between January and October.

During the operation, the suspects were caught with thousands of sim cards which they used to route international calls.

The incident exposed some of the loopholes in the current sim card acquisition and registration process, whereby three people were able to have thousands of cards for their own use.

Other concerns around sim card registration currently include incidences where agents of the various telecom companies can register users without an identification document, leaving room for identity theft.

With telecoms using thousands of agents around the country to handle the services, some agents are less strict on sim card registration requirements, probably due to the commission they earn for new subscribers.

RURA director general Patrick Nyirashema told The New Times that the newly revised regulations will be in place by the end of the month.

He said that the process involved consultation with telecom companies to identify the gaps within the process and ways to bridge them.

The regulator is also cognisant of the fact that the move to strengthen the process and security around it could mean higher costs for the operators.

“We have consulted telecom companies among other stakeholders to make sure we bridge the gaps that exist today. We are aware that, when you strengthen security, it comes at a cost so we are trying to balance ensuring that the cost is not very high for the operators but at the same time it serves the intended purpose; to bridge the gap,” he added.

The current regulations were adopted in 2013.

The regulations provide that any activation of a sim card shall be subject to the registration of personal information of the individual subscriber wishing to use that sim card.

“The registration of existing subscribers shall be done by authorised registration agent. The registration shall be subject to the presentation of original ID Card and physical presence of sim card holder,” the regulations read in part.

Telecom companies have embraced the move, saying that it will help curb fraud and identity theft cases which have been harmful to their reputation.

MTN Rwanda Chief Executive Bart Hofker told The New Times that they support the changes as the loopholes have posed a threat to the brand.

editorial@newtimes.co.rw

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