All Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) cards that are not registered by 2020 will be deactivated, the Communications Minister has revealed.
Ursula Owusu-Ekuful who disclosed this at a press conference Monday said mobile network subscribers have until June of 2020 to ensure their SIM Cards are properly registered.
“The Ministry has consulted all relevant stakeholders and hereby announces that from January 1, 2020, we will all be required to re-register our SIM cards.
“SIM card which is not registered will be deactivated by June 2020, giving a six-month time frame for this exercise,” she added.
The registration of SIM Cards is part of government’s effort to fight mobile phone related crimes. It is also intended to help the law enforcement agencies to identify the SIM card owners, track criminals who use phones for illegal activities, curb incidents such as phone theft, hate text messages, mobile fraud activities, inciting violence, and to combat crime such as SIM Box fraud.
SIM registration also enables subscribers to be properly identified for the use of value-added services such as mobile banking, mobile money, and electronic payment services.
Due to the crucial nature of SIM registration and its security implications for the country, MNOs were required to ensure SIMs were registered properly before activation on the mobile network to avoid inconsistencies and fake subscriber identity.
But the Communications Minister said although SIM Registration is still in force, service providers have not enforced the process as they should.
Mrs Owusi-Ekuful attributes this to “due to the lack of acceptable fake proof, Identification card and non-existence of verification by a national database to ensure the traceability of the individual who registered the SIM card.
“Currently, there is no solution in place to integrate all the databases of Card Issuing Agencies for the seamless verification of IDs used for registration of SIMs to be effectively conducted,” she added.
The Ministry, she added, has noted other deficiencies of the existing SIM card registration regime in Ghana including the sale of pre-registered SIM cards, the use of pre-registered SIM cards and fraudulent registration of SIM cards.
All of these activities are proscribed by law, she said, adding “these deficiencies facilitate fraudulent activities perpetrated through the use of mobile phones such as mobile money fraud, illegal SIM swap, illegal termination of international traffic (SIM-Boxing) leading to loss of revenue to the state, impersonation and cyber-crime.”
She also noted that though some IDs submitted for registration of SIMs may have been valid, due to the poorly implemented manual verification process, millions of SIMs registered have been rendered invalid because of the non-verification of these IDs electronically with the databases of the Card Issuing Agencies.
She added that some MNOs also hired illiterate or semi-literate agents to do the SIM registration on commission basis – i.e. the MNOs paid agents according to how many subscribers they registered per day.
“Due to the monetary considerations, some agents cut corners and even pre-register several SIMs with different IDs for sell to unsuspecting clients that seek SIMs Reports received from some subscribers indicate that some agents registered SIMs without taking subscribers’ ID details, while others presented valid IDs for registration but later checks indicated their SIMs are registered in the names of other persons they do not know.
“Others indicated that some agents gave them an option to either buy a pre-registered card or queue to register and some subscribers obviously opted for the pre-registered SIMs to save time.”
This, she believes, makes it clear that the current SIM card registration regime is deficient and fraught with many challenges, defeating the purpose of the SIM Registration Regulations.
She indicated the NCA has been directed to establish an efficient solution to link all existing databases and ensure strict compliance with the law on the acquisition and registration of SIM cards in Ghana.
This, she is certain, will restore the confidence and trust in the entire ICT ecosystem and enhance the activities of the law enforcement agencies in clamping down on crime committed using these SIM cards.
“We entreat all citizens, residents and visitors to cooperate to ensure the success of this exercise for our collective security,” the Minister urged.