Telcos remove unregistered SIM cards from database today
The Ghana Chamber of Telecommunications has urged subscribers of MTN, AirtelTigo and Vodafone to complete the registration of their subscriber identification module (SIM) cards using their Ghana cards before April 17, 2023 to avoid losing their numbers forever.
The chamber, which represents the service providers, said that was to avoid any inconvenience, as its members complied with a directive by the National Communications Authority (NCA) for the mobile network operators (MNOs) to deactivate, delink and remove all SIM cards not fully re-registered from all databases by today.
It said since the MNOs had already been blocking services for subscribers from last November, they intended to fully comply with the NCA’s directive.
“As a matter of urgency, we are encouraging all cherished customers of the networks who are yet to complete the registration process to do so as a matter of urgency, so they are not barred from using voice, data, USSD, mobile money services. Subscribers with Ghana cards can avoid this inconvenience,” the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the chamber, Dr Ken Ashigbey, told the Daily Graphic in an interview.
Per data from the Ministry of Communications and Digitalisation (MoCAD), 42.5 million SIMs had been initially registered, and of the number, 25,150,522 of those SIM cards had been successfully registered in Ghana as of last February 9.
About 33.8 million, representing 79. 60 per cent, had completed only the first phase of linking their Ghana cards to the SIMs, while 8,658,164 subscribers, representing 20.40 per cent, had not linked their Ghana cards to their SIM cards.
The interview was to throw more light on a statement the chamber released, giving details of who would be affected as the MNOs complied with the NCA directive.
Last Thursday, the NCA said all disconnected SIMs were to be delinked from all databases by today, April 17, 2023.
Affected SIMs include those that were blocked in November 2022 for not having completed both stages of the SIM registration.
Also, all SIM cards registered after the limit of 10 per individual are to be delinked, deactivated and removed from all databases by today.
Grace period over
Dr Ashigbey said with the grace period now elapsed for the re-registration of the SIM cards, there was very little the MNOs could do other than to comply with the latest directive by the Ministry of Communications and Digitalisation and the NCA.
He said after the deadline for the exercise was extended, first to March 31, then to July 31 and finally to September 30, 2022, there was a directive to begin deactivating services to the affected lines in November 2022, which was complied with.
“Since last November, we have been blocking services for subscribers who have not completed both stages of the SIM registration process, as directed by the Ministry of Communications and Digitalisation.
“Now our members are obliged by the directive to completely deactivate all impacted subscriber SIMs which have not completed the registration by the said date without any further notice or extension of time for subscribers.
“Once that is done, the subscriber will not, in any way, be able to use the number or SIM card again, so it is important for all cherished customers who now have their Ghana cards but are yet to complete the process to do so in order not for them to be barred from using voice, data, USSD and mobile money services,” Dr Ashigbey stressed.
More than 10 sims
Also, likely to lose their SIM cards per this directive are subscribers who have exceeded the 10 SIM cards allowed each subscriber.
Dr Ashigbey explained that per the regulations for the SIM card re-registration, each Ghanaian subscriber was allowed to use his or her Ghana Card to register up to 10 SIM cards, while foreign residents were allowed to register three SIMs.
“Unfortunately, that is the law and there is very little anyone can do about it, so all SIM cards registered after the limit of 10 per individual will also be affected and will be delinked, deactivated and removed from all databases by today, April 17, 2023,” the CEO of the Ghana Telecommunications Chamber explained.
The re-registration of mobile phone SIM cards was announced by the government in September 2021 as a measure to help stem fraud and criminal activities through the use of mobile telecommunication devices and systems in the country.
The registration exercise was expected to cover about 40 million subscribers, after which all unregistered SIM cards were to be blocked.
When it was announced in 2021, the plan was to register SIM cards concurrently with the registration of handsets and equipment, although that phase of the exercise is yet to manifest.
The challenge in acquiring a Ghana Card, the only form of ID admitted for the re-registration exercise, was the main excuse for subscribers not being able to successfully go through the process.
Also, the technical hitch of slow network was another challenge as subscribers thronged the various offices of the telcos in a bid to get their cards re-registered.
In justifying the exercise, the NCA said it would help secure SIM card-based transactions, as well as to help determine, at every point in time, the accurate number of valid and accurate SIMs on the networks.
Also, for operators, the exercise will enable them to build better demographics of their customer base and help them develop products and services to suit the various groupings.
In the case of the regulator, the NCA, the exercise will help it use the data generated to regulate the industry even better.
Economically, the SIM re-registration will enhance economic growth and gradually formalise the informal sector, as people will now be able to access E-Government services and other private e-services.
In addition, the SIM registration will also support financial inclusion across the vulnerable sectors.