Ghana Telecoms Chamber calls for extension of SIM card registration period

The Ghana Telecoms Chamber has called for an extension of the SIM card registration exercise particularly to allow people who registered but whose registration faced procedural anomalies to rectify them and prevent deactivation of their numbers.

Chief Executive of the Chamber, Kwaku Sakyi-Addo said “the telecom operators would prefer an extension because many people have not registered but more significantly some registered but their registration have been deemed invalid due to anomalies either with their ID details or how their details were recorded by the registration agents.”

He said an extension would allow a cleanup, which would enable particularly people who made the effort to register but something went wrong in recording their details and so during the verification exercise their details did not check with their ID information at the respective Identification institutions.

Mr. Sakyi-Addo noted that something as simple as wrong spelling of name, or mixing up of ID numbers could render a registration invalid through no fault of the subscriber so there was need for more time to enable those anomalies to be corrected.

“An extension will be to the benefit of subscribers who took the pain to register but have some small errors, and also allow those who have not registered to do so,” he said.

He however stated that the final mandate for an extension rested with the National Communication Authority (NCA) and until the NCA authorizes an extension, the operators would stand by the original directive to deactivate all unregistered numbers on their respective networks on July 1, 2011.

SIM card registration begun in Ghana in June 2010 and it is scheduled to end on June 30, 2011 after which all unregistered cell phone numbers would be deactivated permanently and owners of those phone numbers would lose their numbers and information on their SIM cards for good.

Weeks to the deadline for SIM Card registration, the NCA came out with a registration verification report which said some five million plus registered numbers, accounting for 30 per cent of all registered SIM cards, could not be verified either due to the use of fake ID cards or procedural anomalies.

The NCA had said those numbers and others which have not registered at all would all be deactivated by the various operators immediately after the June 30 deadline.

But certain civil society groups like IMANI Ghana and some individual legal practitioners have challenged the NCA’s authority to deactivate unregistered phone numbers saying subscribers had contracts with their respective network operators and not with the NCA.

IMANI have also blamed people inability to registers with valid ID card on the ineptitude of state institutions charged with issuing national ID card, saying the citizens could not be blamed for the failings of those institutions and the government’s refusal to call them to order.

The NCA had insisted it had authority to direct the network operators to follow rules and regulations and so the NCA would not go deactivating numbers by itself, but had directed the operators to do so and the operators were legally bound to follow the directive.

Critics of the NCA’s position had also suggested that the deactivation should be gradual instead of immediate, but Kwaku Sakyi-Addo said until the NCA took those suggestions onboard and issued another directive, the operators would go ahead with the original directive.

“The operators would prefer an extension but the NCA is the only authority that can order an extension and until the NCA reverses its decision, its decision stays and the operators would only have to go by that,” he said.

Asked if the timing for the verification report to come out was not too close to the deadline, Kwaku Sakyi-Addo deferred to the NCA saying the NCA should be in the best position to tell whether verification should have been done earlier than it was.

The Ghana Telecom Chamber speaks for all telecom operators in the country on common industry-related issues.

Samuel Nii Narku Dowuona

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