12M Polish SIMs deactivated as crime legislation bites

Anti-terrorism laws have prompted operators in Poland to disconnect around 12 million SIM cards across the country.

The legislation was introduced by the Polish parliament last year, with the country’s ministry of digitalisation imposing a deadline of February 1st for prepaid SIM owners to register with their operators. Subscribers were warned that any SIMs not registered by this deadline would be disconnected.

Regulator UKE confirmed that data provided by the country’s operators showed that 68.7% of Poland’s prepaid SIMs had been registered before the deadline, with around 12 million being disconnected. These figures are estimates generated from data gathered by the Polish electronic communications office.

Data submitted by Virgin Mobile Poland was also used to calculate the estimates, with the operator’s president Grazyna Piotrowska-Oliwa confirming that it had disconnected 59,000 prepaid SIM cards, amounting to roughly 14% of its user base.

Registering a SIM card provides the operator with the subscriber’s name and social security number for Polish nationals. Foreign nationals must disclose their passport or residence numbers. The new registration laws are aimed at making it harder for criminals and terrorists to use mobile phones anonymously.

Similar measures have been introduced in several markets globally, with Nigeria’s one of the most prominent due to the dispute that arose between the country’s government and its market leader MTN. After being ordered in 2015 to disconnect unregistered SIM cards on the pain of financial penalties, the market leader was hit with a $5.2 billion fine after it failed to do so. It eventually managed to negotiate the fine down to $1.67 billion but has since complained of its harassment by the Nigerian government.

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