Both Zambia – through state-owned operator Zambia Telecommunications Company (Zamtel) – and Nigeria appear to be pushing through new rules on mobile subscriber registration.
According to regional news reports, Zamtel is asking all of its mobile subscribers to register their personal information – for a second time. The plan, apparently, is to integrate biometric data into the process in order to combat telecoms fraud and cybercrime.
This means not just the provision of identity information but also facial biometric data, which end users need to supply by 31 March, though the offer of extra data and voice minutes is being used as an incentive for subscribers to comply.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has been tasked with revising the country’s policy on SIM registration and usage.
Among the new requirements will apparently be having a National Identity Number (NIN) before registering new SIM cards (and updating registered SIM cards with the NIN by the end of the year); restricting SIM cards to a maximum of three per person; no unregistered SIMs to be allowed on mobile networks; ensuring that subscribers can easily check the number of SIM cards registered to their name; requiring mobile network operators to protect their networks against cyberattacks; and ensuring that SIM cards that have been used to commit crimes are permanently deactivated.
The new rules will also aim to ensure that only fully accredited agents support the SIM card registration process without pre-registering SIM cards themselves; the eventual registration should be done by the operators.
The decision is, we are told, based on feedback received from security agencies following the successful revalidation of improperly registered SIM cards in September 2019.
None of this has reached the statute book yet, but the response to the restrictions on multiple SIM ownership, not unusual in Nigeria and many other countries, should be interesting, to say the least.