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.
Categories of biometric SIM card registration
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:
- Individual: An individual must register a SIM card by presenting his or her NIDA ID to the service provider. The service provider shall verify the individual’s fingerprint with NIDA. Verification is done online or electronically and the SIM card shall be registered by the individual’s name.
- Company: A company representative shall carry out the process of SIM card registration with the service provider. The following certified copies and information must be availed to the service provider: the company’s Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) certificate, business license, incorporation, compliance or registration certificate and the company representative’s NIDA ID. The company representative’s fingerprint shall then be verified by the service provider with NIDA once for a batch of SIM cards. The SIM cards will be registered in the company’s name. When there is a change of the company representative, the service provider must be notified to register the new representative.
- Company employee: The company is required to present to the service provider certified copies of TIN certificate, business licence and incorporation, compliance or registration certificate for SIM card registration. The employee must present a NIDA ID and the service provider shall verify the employee’s fingerprint with NIDA. Afterwards, the SIM card will be registered by the employee’s name. The company must notify the service provider on change of ownership of the registered SIM card so that re-registration can be done for the new employee.
- Visitor: Visitors are required to present to the service provider certified copies of valid passport and visa for SIM card registration. Visitors with visa exemption are required to present only a certified copy of a valid passport. A Visitor’s fingerprint verification shall be conducted by the service provider with NIDA or the Immigration Department. The SIM card shall be registered by the Visitor’s name.
- Foreigner: A foreigner must present his or her NIDA ID to the service provider and fingerprint verification will be done with NIDA. The SIM card shall then be registered by the Foreigner’s name.
- Diplomat: A service provider shall register a SIM card to a diplomat only if the diplomat presents certified copies of valid diplomatic passport and diplomatic identity card. The service provider shall not take or verify a diplomat’s fingerprint.
- Diplomatic institution: A diplomatic institution must be issued an introduction letter by the Ministry of foreign affairs and present it to the service provider together with its introduction letter. A representative of the diplomatic institution must present certified copies of valid diplomatic passport and diplomatic identity card to the service provider. Registration shall then be done for a batch of SIM cards bearing the name of the diplomatic institution and no fingerprint verification is required.
What customers should know
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.
Customers with defaced fingerprints or who do not have fingers
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.
Limitations and transitional provisions
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.
Penalties for non-compliance
- Contravention of the specified number of SIM cards to be owned: the penalty for an individual is imprisonment for a term of not less than 12 months or a fine of not less than TZS 5,000,000 or both. The individual will also be subjected to a fine of not less than TZS 75,000 for every day of use of the SIM card. For a company or institution, the penalty is a fine of not less than TZS 50,000,000 and a fine of not less than TZS 175,000 for every day of use of the SIM card.
- A Licensee’s default to deactivate SIM cards after the transitional period: for a SIM card owned by an individual, company or institution, the Licensee is liable, upon conviction, to pay a fine of not less than TZS 50,000,000.
- Misuse of information: a Licensee, dealer or agent who misuses a customer’s information for SIM card registration shall be liable to a fine of not less than TZS 5,000,000 or imprisonment for a term of not less than 12 months or both.
- Contravention of the SCR Regulations where no specific penalty is provided: a person who contravenes the provisions of the SCR Regulations where no specific penalty is provided is liable to a penalty prescribed under the Electronic and Postal Communications Act No. 3 of 2010.
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.
- “Authority” means the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority.
- “Batch of SIM Card” means a group of SIM Cards registered at the same time for electronic communications and requiring a single representative’s NIDA identity with a single biometric verification excluding additional SIM Cards.
- “Foreigner” means a non-citizen who is not a diplomat staying in the country for more than six (6) months.
- “Licensee” means an entity licensed by the Authority to provide and facilitate the provision of electronic communication services, also known as an operator or service provider.
- “Minor” means a child below the age of eighteen years and above the age of twelve years.
- “NIDA” is an acronym of the National Identification Authority.
- “NIDA ID” means an identity card or national identification number which is also known by its acronym as “NIN” issued by the NIDA.
- “SCR Regulations” means the Electronic and Postal Communications (SIM Card Registration) Regulations which were made under Government Notice Number 112 of 2020.
- “TZS” means Tanzanian Shillings.
- “Visitor” means a non-citizen who is not a diplomat and intends to stay in Tanzania for not more than four (4) months.