Rura bans fake cell phones

Government will ban the importation of counterfeit mobile handsets into the country instead of switching the existing ones off the networks.

Government will ban the importation of counterfeit mobile handsets into the country instead of switching the existing ones off the networks.

The fake phones, believed to be of low quality, affect communication and pose a health risk to the users, according to Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Agency (Rura).

Regis Gatarayiha, the Director General of Rura, told The New Times yesterday, the plan to stop the importation of counterfeit (low quality) devices will start sometime this year.

“We are still assessing the impact but, what we have started is the ‘Type Approval’ of the phones entering the country. The importers first get type approval from Rura before bringing in phones,” he said.

“We thought that, instead of switching off the existing ones, we should rather stop the new ones from entering the country and that process is being done through the ‘type approval,” the Rura boss explained: “We looked at its impact in other countries, where it has been implemented. We have seen how it affected people in other countries and we decided to ban the importation of new counterfeit mobile handsets.”

A regional campaign to blacklist fake mobile phones started in Kenya where millions of gadgets were blocked from networks of mobile phone operators in the country.

The initiative had been agreed upon within the East African Communications Organisation (EACO).

EACO is the regional body which brings together regulatory, postal, telecommunications and broadcasting organisations from all the five member-states of the EAC.

All unregistered handsets and those with non-authentic International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) numbers are considered to be counterfeit.

Fake mobiles include counterfeits, knock-offs, imitations, copycats and replicas, which steal design and trademarks to deceive consumers. All fake phones are produced without government certification and are sold illegally on the world’s black market.

“Since the government announced plans to switch  counterfeit phones off the networks, we no longer import them. These phones are cheap and the demand for them was really high,” said Marie Clare Uwayezu, a phone dealer at O-King phones in Kigali.

Uwayezu stated that original phones are a bit expensive and people will find it challenging to buy them.

In order to detect a fake phone, for instance, if you are using a Nokia phone, type *#06# and a serial number should be displayed. If your phone is unable to do this, most likely it is fake.

According to phone dealers in town, the cheapest counterfeit phones cost between Rwf6,000 and Rwf10,000 and the most expensive do not go beyond Rwf60,000.

The original phones cost between Rwf15,000 and Rwf600,000.

“I have a fake mobile phone because it was very cheap and that is the one I could afford to buy. The government should at least revise the prices of original phones sold in town,” said Jean Marie Gakuba, a mechanic.

He noted that switching off fake phones was going to be a major challenge because most people own cheap phones which are likely to be duplicates.

In Rwanda, statistics indicate that about 55 per cent of Rwandans now have access to a mobile phone.

Rura statistics show that by January 2013, about 3,454,270 had subscribed to MTN Rwanda, followed by Tigo, a subsidiary of Luxembourg-based Millicom International Cellular SA (MICC), with 1,877,621 and the new player in the market, Indian telecom giant, Airtel has 570,739.

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