The Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) is considering an extension of the countrywide sim card registration exercise.
Patrick Mwesigwa, the acting Executive Director UCC, today told the Information, communication and technology Parliamentary committee that there is need for an extension of deadlines.
UCC had intended to switch off all unregistered lines by 1st March, but in view of the challenges being experienced by the mobile telecommunication companies, Mwesigwa says they shall make their final decision on the matter on Friday.
The committee members had differed on when and how the switch off should be carried out.
Wafula Ogutu, Bugiri Central MP, argued that the phone being an economic tool and there are so many activities taking place such as mobile money use for UCC to just switch off subscribers.
Wafula said he would be hesitant to cut off subscribers especially those in the rural areas considering the distance and cost to be incurred.
Mariam Nalubega Butambala woman MP highlighted the fact that there are no local council chairpersons in villages making it a possibility that the LC letters used for identification are forgeries.
Mwesigwa stated that they communicated to the minister of local government who then wrote to all local governments, not to charge anybody to register since telecom companies revealed that subscribers are charged between 1000 to 10,000 shillings.
However, Odonga Otto, Aruu county MP, was opposed to the extension saying Ugandans are very indisciplined and want to register in the last minute. Otto and Bernard Atiku MP Ayivu suggested that there should only be an extension of one week.
The committee chairperson Paula Turyahikayo also suggested that urban areas should be switched off and an extension given to the rural subscribers.
Mwesigwa clarified that the commission has periodically held review meetings with the service providers to monitor progress of the exercise. As of December 2012, there were 16 million subscribers countrywide out of which 11 million have registered their sim cards.
He revealed that the commission in consultation with the other stakeholders had agreed to the extension of the deadline for a period of 90 days. There would also be an additional 90 days for validation of data collected since it is a main challenge.
However, demarcation of subscribers in rural and urban areas is impossible so the final decision will be all encompassing irrespective of one’s area of residence.
The commission notes challenges also cited by the mobile phone operators including; long distance registration centres in some rural areas, fees charged by LC 1 chairpersons for letters of introduction and stringent requirements for registration.
There is also apprehension by consumers as to the purpose of the registration, inability by subscribers to verify their registration status especially with MTN among other challenges.
Yesterday mobile telecom operators including Orange, MTN, Airtel and Warid and Uganda Telecom appearing before the committee sought a twelve month extension period.