Thousands of phone subscribers locked out

TCRA director general James Kilaba

Dar es Salaam. The Tanzania Communication Regulatory Authority (TCRA) said disconnection of unregistered Sim cards may take up to two weeks as hundreds of subscribers are already feeling the pinch of being locked out of mobile phone services.

By 10pm on Monday, according to the regulator, about 656,091 lines which had not been registered biometrically had been switched off.

TCRA director general James Kilaba said the exercise will be conducted in phases. According to him, about 318, 950 subscribers, who had previously registered using their national identification cards, but not biometrically, will be the second batch to be locked out.

“We are switching off the lines which haven’t been biometrically registered in phases due to technicalities…you can’t just switch off 10 million subscribers at once,” said Mr Kilaba.

The TCRA boss said that they have switched the 656,091 subscribers because they have all the required credentials to register but they have failed to do so.

However, Mr Kilaba insisted that those whose Sim cards have been switched off can activate after registering biometrically. The TCRA boss said it might take the authority up to two weeks to switch off Sim cards of subscribers, who are yet to register.

In a statement yesterday, Vodacom Tanzania announced that its 157,000 subscribers had already been locked out. Vodacom Tanzania is currently having 14 million subscribers, more than 30 per cent of the market share.

Vodacom’s Managing Director Hisham Hendi urged the affected customers to visit Vodacom’s over 35,000 service points across the country to register their lines and continue using the company’s services.

“Our shops in major towns will continue to stay open 24 hours a day 7 days a week to accommodate customers who have National ID Numbers and who want to biometrically register their lines to continue using our services including M-Pesa,” he said.

He added that only those customers that have received NINs from NIDA but have failed to register their lines ahead of the said deadline have been affected by yesterday’s exercise.

The exercise for biometric registration of Sim cards initially was set to expire on December 31, 2019 but President John Magufuli pushed back the deadline to January 20, 2020.

Long queues have recently been seen at Nida offices as people rush against time to register or obtain NIN or their National IDs so that they can biometrically register their Sim cards. For one to register, he/ she must have either NIN or national ID. It takes about one month for one to get his/her NIN.

But some citizens have been complaining that it took them more than a month to obtain their IDs or NIN due to bureaucracy.

Some of mobile phone subscribers whose lines were switched off have expressed their pessimism.

Ms Jane Mihayo told this paper that she has nothing else to do but to wait for the queues at Nida offices to ease. The same was shared by another Dar es Salaam resident, Mr James Mathias.

According to Mr Fredrick Ntobi, TCRA communications manager there is no limit of numbers of Sim cards one can possess.

As of January 19 only 28.4 million Sim cards had been registered biometrically. Tanzania has a total of over 48 million Sim card subscribers.