The National Communications Authority (NCA) has successfully registered 42.7 million Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) cards of mobile network operators (MNOs) in the country.
They are the SIM cards that have gone through the two-stage registration process of linking them to the Ghana Card and also capturing the biometric data of their owners to match the cards.
This leaves about nine million SIM cards to be deactivated across the country tomorrow, if their owners do not complete the registration process.
The Accra High Court last Thursday dismissed a case which sought to stop the NCA from deactivating the SIM cards of people who fail to register them.
In its judgement, the court, presided over by Justice Charles Ekow Baiden, held that the NCA had acted legally and in accordance with the laws that governed its operations.
Out of the number, it is estimated that about 3.8 million of the subscribers belong to the biggest mobile telecommunication company in the country, MTN Ghana, while about 2.9 million SIM cards are on the Vodafone Ghana network.
About 1.8 million AirtelTigo subscribers are affected, with about 100,000 SIM cards of Glo also being cited for disconnection should they not complete their registration.
The move is in compliance with the notice from the National Communications Authority (NCA) to all telecom operators to comply with its directive to register all subscriber cards with the national identification card, the Ghana Card.
The directive to deactivate the SIM cards was after a meeting held on November 17, this year.
Who will be affected?
Sources at the National Communications Authority (NCA) who are familiar with the exercise said the deactivation would affect SIM cards that had not started the registration up to those who had completed stage one (Linkage of Ghana Card ID to SIM Card) but had not completed stage two (Biometric Capture) (“Not fully registered with the Ghana Card”) as of Thursday, December 01, this year.
The sources explained that a fully registered SIM card was one that had successfully completed both stages one (linkage) and two (bio-data capture).
According to the sources, 30.2 million SIM cards had completed the first stage of registration, with 21.5 million completing the stage two registration.
Window of opportunity
In spite of the exercise causing a lot of inconvenience to affected subscribers because of their inability to access their Ghana cards from the National Identification Authority (NIA), there still remains a window of opportunity for affected subscribers.
For instance, all deactivated SIM cards can be reactivated within six months from the date of deactivation, only if they are able to go through the bio-capture process.
However, deactivated SIM cards will be recycled if they are not reactivated by the end of May 2023.
The Ministry of Communications and Digitalisation, which made the exercise known since last year, shifted the deadlines twice to give room to subscribers to fully comply by registering their SIMs.
That notwithstanding, the telcos and some subscribers have raised concerns that most of those to be affected were yet to receive their Ghana cards from the NIA which had a backlog of cards to either process or distribute to registered Ghanaians.
A release from MTN issued through the Ghana Stock Exchange said 5.7 million subscribers on its platform would be eligible for deactivation on Thursday.
“As of November 26, 2022, 22,112,943 MTN Ghana subscribers had successfully linked their Ghana card to their SIM cards (Stage 1), while 16,411,794 had successfully completed the bio-capture phase (Stage 2),” the release said.
MTN said it had already complied with the first stage of the directive by deactivating the data services of SIM Cards that had not fully registered with the Ghana Card on November 20, this year.
Impact on revenue
In spite of the good intentions behind the SIM registration exercise, some major concerns have been raised about how the deactivation exercise will affect government’s expected revenue from mobile money transactions.
Some experts have indicated that since many subscribers used their SIM cards for mobile money transactions, there was likely to be a further drop in the revenues raised because of the large number of SIM cards to be affected by the latest directive.
A tax consultant, Apostle Ben Mensah, told the Daily Graphic that the move was not the best and suggested a more appropriate means to deal with recalcitrant subscribers.
“The NCA needs to open it. If a person has not registered their SIM card, they should not be allowed to access mobile money services. The festive season is here and that will encourage people to register their SIM cards,” he added.