After a number of years of threatening action on the issue the Mozambique telecommunications regulator has told mobile operators that unregistered SIMs will be blocked after 6 November.
According to TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, the Communications Regulatory Authority (Arecom) recently issued a statement urging users of unregistered or ‘irregularly registered’ mobile SIM cards to correctly register their SIMs by 6 November 2020 “under penalty of blocking the number and interruption of access to all services”.
In theory this shouldn’t be necessary; SIM registration has been compulsory in the country for five years. However, it is argued that mobile operators have not done much to meet their legal requirement to interrupt or block services to unregistered subscribers.
There’s also the ongoing problem of unregistered SIM usage serving ingenious but illegal activity such as SIM box fraud, where international calls are routed via a VoIP gateway to disguise them as local traffic. The regulator has stated that it is “currently developing platforms for receiving, processing and forwarding reports of fraud and defamation, among other crimes perpetrated via mobile phone”.
It will be interesting to see how or whether this order is enforced. It’s been over a year – last July in fact – since local news reports said Arecom was giving the country's three mobile phone companies, Tmcel, Vodacom and Movitel, a deadline of ten days to regularise the situation of unregistered SIM cards.
However, the government has apparently been insisting on registration since 2010, in the wake of riots against price increases which were, the government said, mobilized through text messages. This issue then quietly disappeared from the agenda until 2015, when, it seems, some unregistered SIM cards were blocked, though clearly enough people are still using unregistered SIM cards to cause government concern.
SIM card registration has been a popular news theme this year – most recently in Myanmar where, we reported recently, Telenor Myanmar has apparently 'lost' more than six million customers, due mainly to SIM deactivation.