Airtel Tanzania blocks subscribers over biometric registration

What you need to know:

Telecom firm move comes ahead of December 31 deadline set by regulator. Customers cry foul over inconvenience as others said national identification agency was yet to release their IDs

Dar es Salaam. Airtel Tanzania today, Thursday December 19, 2019, threw its over 7 million subscribers into confusion after it blocked them from calling over the requirement to register biometrically.

The subscribers, however, were able to send and receive messages and transact through Mobile Money. Angry subscribers called the newsroom and others took to social media to vent their anger on Airtel which they accused of insensitivity for the inconvenience.

It was not immediately clear why the telecom suspended the service before the December 31 official deadline for biometric registration for all mobile subscribers in the country by Tanzania Communication and Regulatory authority.

Officials at Airtel Tanzania were unavailable for comment. But workers at the company’s call centre admitted that they had blocked the Sim cards and had sent messages to subscribers indicating they had suspended the services, saying that they were, however, trying to rectify the anomaly.

Figures released on December 13, 2019, by TCRA show that more than 50 per cent (7,185,528) of Airtel Tanzania’s subscribers were yet to register biometrically. The firms boasts of 13 million subscribers.

TCRA, however, assured the public that the law has not mandated service providers to switch off Sim cards without the regulator’s nod.
TCRA spokesperson Semu Mwakiyanjala said this when responding to The Citizen’s query after a section of the public complained of not being able to place calls.
He said it was imperative that those affected communicate with the service provider because it could be a technical hitch related to the broadband backbone grid.
“If the people are not receiving network they should communicate with the relevant company to know the problem before reaching any conclusions,” he said.

But Airtel Tanzania customers who talked to The Citizen said the company deliberately blocked them and has sent messages to that effect.

“I feel I am being punished for a mistake that is not of my making, and in any case I have not received my NIDA number despite registering over two months now,” said one caller who wished to remain unanimous .