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The Electronic and Postal Communications (SIM Card Registration) Regulations (the SCR Regulations) were published on 7 February 2020 and make it mandatory for all SIM card users in Tanzania to register their SIM cards biometrically. In this article, we address the categories of biometric SIM card registration, the necessary documentation required to register SIM cards for each category of registration, recent developments on SIM card registration and penalties for non-compliance.
The SCR Regulations provide 10 biometric SIM card registration categories which are; individual, company, company employee, institution, minor, visitor, foreigner, refugee, diplomat, and diplomatic institution. For purposes of this briefing, we will focus on the categories listed below:
The information required in all biometric SIM card registration categories must be valid and the service providers shall keep details of the registered SIM card users. A service provider shall not activate a SIM card before registering customer details as provided under the SCR Regulations and SIM card registration must be verified through the NIDA database. A SIM card which is not verified through the NIDA database shall be considered as unregistered and will be deactivated.
A SIM card which is not in use for more than 90 days shall be deactivated by the service provider. However, if the customer notifies the service provider about that fact then the SIM card shall not be deactivated. The notice referred must be in writing and the idle period shall not exceed 12 months from the date of notification.
Customers are required, under the SCR Regulations, to report a change of ownership of a SIM card to the service provider. The new owner of a SIM card must register the SIM card with their name within 15 days from the date they assumed ownership. The owner of a SIM card must report loss, theft or destruction of the SIM card to the police within seven days from the date of such incident. Upon reporting, the owner will be issued with a loss report or preliminary investigation report which shall be required by the service provider in a request to replace the SIM card.
The SCR Regulations provide a special procedure for SIM card registration of people with defaced fingerprints or who do not have fingers. Subject to the person presenting their NIDA ID, the service provider is required to request clearance from NIDA for the defaced method of SIM card registration. The method involves multiple verification questions which, if the customer answers 2/3 (66%) of them correctly, verification shall be deemed successful and the SIM card will be registered.
The SCR Regulations impose a limit for the number of SIM cards to be owned by an individual, company and institution. An individual is limited to own one SIM card from each licensed mobile network operator (MNO) for use on voice, short messages and data services. In case of a machine to machine communication, an individual is limited to own not more than four SIM cards from each MNO. For a company and institution, the limit is not more than 30 SIM cards for use on voice, short messages and data services, and for a machine to machine communication, ownership of not more than 50 SIM cards from each MNO. An individual, company or institution may apply, in writing, to the Authority for permission to own more than the specified SIM card limit.
An individual, company or institution which owned more than the specified SIM card limit before the commencement of the SCR Regulations was given a transitional period of up to 30 June 2020 to comply with the SCR Regulations. The individual, company or institution was, within the transitional period and subject to a notification by the service provider, required to choose SIM cards which were to remain active in compliance with the SCR Regulations. If the individual, company or institution complied, then the service provider was required to deactivate SIM cards not chosen to remain active. In case of non-compliance, the service provider was required to deactivate all active SIM cards after the expiry of the transitional period.
The Authority published a general notice on their website about the implementation of biometric registration of more than the specified limit of SIM card ownership. According to the notice, the time for complying with the specified SIM card limit is extended until 31 July 2020. For those who wish to apply for ownership of more than the prescribed SIM cards, the process is continuous and they should visit their service provider's or agent's offices. The Authority also pointed out that verification of SIM card registration is done through mobile phones by dialling *106#. The command will show the owner's registered numbers and will help people to detect numbers not recognised by them but registered under their NIDA ID. If that is the case then a person must report this to his or her service provider so that such numbers can be deactivated to avoid any inconveniences.