|RICA extension expected|
Tuesday, 23 February 2010 02:00
Local operators will be watching Nigeria`s decision to extend its SIM card registration deadline with interest, since there may be a chance that they would need to apply for a local extension.
Yesterday, Nigeria`s regulator granted MTN`s and Zain`s Nigerian units a two-month extension to allow for the masses of customers on the networks that have yet to register their SIM cards.
While the two countries are sitting in very different situations, every country that grants an extension bolsters the chances that SA may also receive one. The Democratic Republic of Congo has also passed a two-year extension onto its citizens and operators.
ICT industry analyst at Frost & Sullivan Spiwe Chireka says the extension in Nigeria comes as no surprise, since operators in the region were only really given six months to comply. “Registering around 70 million customers in six months is impossible,” she notes.
SA`s version of the SIM registration law, the Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication-Related Information Act (RICA), got under way in June last year. Operators were given 18 months to comply.
Chireka says it is still early days for the local operators. She notes that, while they have given good information on how RICA has impacted their new additions, it is still unclear how many of the companies` existing customers have registered their SIMs yet.
She says that if the operators are expecting problems, they need to be voiced soon, so the regulator is aware that the task is a tough one.
Steven Ambrose, MD of World Wide Worx Strategy, says there is a real possibility SA will follow suit with an extension. However, he says the entire process is little more than a “completely unworkable, but laudable concept”.
In the US, or Europe, where citizens are more closely tracked through government-related databases, the process will work, he says. “In the African context, where we can`t even get a proper database on the people who live here, then it`s useless.”
Ambrose explains that many of the applicants for SIMs in Africa have used the address of a nearby church, instead of their own physical address, to register. “This makes it a useless exercise,” he notes.
He says, while the process is a good concept, it is not likely to accomplish much. “One good thing is that it has created a clearer picture of the local operators` customer numbers.”
Ambrose points to the fact that each activated SIM card represented a subscriber to the operators, while in reality, many users were buying multiple SIMs to take advantage of specials. “RICA has killed all of that, because it`s now too difficult to register SIMs.”
Local operators still have time to bring customers into the RICA process, with the deadline only expected at the end of the year.
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