UCC Issues Ultimatum on Airtime Vending Top story

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In short
All telecom companies have been directed to recall all Simcard and airtime cards held by vendors and to deactivate pre-registered sim cards held by individuals.

The Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) has issued an ultimatum of 48-hours to airtime and sim card vendors to cease operations across the country.  Similarly, all telecom companies have been directed to recall all sim card and airtime cards held by vendors and to deactivate pre-registered sim cards held by individuals. 

The ban affects all street vendors, street hawkers street agents and any other establishment that is not licenced by Kampala Capital City Authority and other town authorities.

UCC Executive Director Eng. Godfrey Mutabazi says that persons found vending airtime and Simcards after the ultimatum, will be arrested and prosecuted.  The order leaves subscribers s with two options for the purchase of airtime; either through easy load (mobile money) or at the licensed agent. 

Mutabaazi says that criminal elements were taking advantage of flaws in the recent Simcard registration exercise, to mastermind communications fraud. He says that because of the loopholes, it has been hard to track sim cards used by criminals.

Mutabaazi adds that the issuance of new sim cards will only continue after telecom companies acquire and install card readers to validate national identification data.
 
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The drive to eliminate communications fraud will also extend to counterfeit phones, which, according to Mutabaazi, can hardly be tracked, once used by criminals.  All phone dealers will now be expected to maintain equipment that is approved to UCC standards.
 
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MTN Uganda and airtel-Uganda have already announced the suspension of the sale of sim cards in line with the directive. In a communication issued by the companies, it is stated that the new directive requires them to acquire and install National ID card readers, at their respective service centres to information before the activation of a new sim card. 
 
When this is done, the information will be instantly verified electronically against the national database maintained by the National Identification and Registration Authority-NIRA. The companies do not currently have direct access to the NIRA database.
 
Erias Kamugisha, an airtime vendor in Kampala described the move as unfair. He says Government should come up with better ways to regulate Simcards instead of banning the sale of airtime.
 
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About the author

Alex Otto
“Journalism that changes lives is my goal,” Alex Otto has said on more than one occasion. That is his career’s guiding principle. Has been since he was a radio journalist in the northern Ugandan town of Gulu in 2009.

Otto passionately believes his journalism should bring to the fore the voices of the voiceless like the shooting victims of Apaa. Otto tries in his journalism to ask tough questions to those in positions of authority.

Based in the Kampala bureau, Otto is especially interested in covering agriculture, politics, education, human rights, crime, environment and business. He has reported intensively on the post-conflict situation in northern Uganda.

A URN staff member since 2014, Otto previously worked with The Observer Newspaper from 2012 to 2013 and later the Institute for War and Peace Reporting IWPR based in Gulu.

He was the URN Gulu bureau chief 2014-2016.