At a press conference yesterday, the Uganda Communications Commission ordered all telecoms to switch off all unregistered SIM cards or else face penalty. The communications regulator made the order in line with their mandate to regulate communications in Uganda. The regulator has been under a lot of criticism for not properly executing the SIM card registration and Digital TV migration exercise.
The exercises saw a lot of extended deadlines and no results. All unregistered SIM cards were to be deactivated in 2013 and all SIM cards purchased after, were to be registered on purchase. To date, SIM cards are still sold on the street without registration.
UCC also set SMS guidelines in a bid to harmonize the use of short codes in the industry. It ordered all telecoms to change their short codes to a few as stipulated. MTN Uganda on the 1st March 2015 officially changed their short codes for loading airtime and checking balance as reported. Among the codes to be harmonized are calling customer care, loading airtime, checking balance among others.
To this effect, MTN Uganda has been fined 5 billion Uganda shillings for breach and non compliance with the directive as per section 41 (1) (a) and section 41 (2) (b) of the Uganda Communications Act. MTN’s repeated defiance was in particular the directive to desist from using short codes 157,169, 178, and 183.
The Commission further withdrew 58 short codes from SMS content providers. We are yet to find out which ones they are.