What to do about unregistered SIMs?

Posted on January 7, 2013  /  7 Comments

We have consistently argued that human beings must be associated with, and be accountable for, SIMs. The imperatives of the Budget Telecom Network Model cause companies (or more, the thousands of resellers who actually interact with customers) to give away SIMs without too many controls. Therefore, one must be judicious in enforcing the rules. We have been pointing to Pakistan as a model. Kenya, it appears, is exemplary of what not to do.

The Consumers Federation of Kenya (Cofek) has condemned a decision by the Communication Commission of Kenya (CCK) to fine subscribers KES300,000 (USD3,426) or jail them for three years for using unregistered SIM cards. CapitalFM.co.ke quotes Cofek secretary general Stephen Mutoro as suggesting that the only penalty customers should face for using unregistered SIM cards is disconnection from their service provider. Once disconnected, subscribers will have 90 days to recover their numbers, but Mutoro emphasised that the failure by providers to disconnect noncompliant customers should not be placed with the subscribers themselves.



  1. My response to an email that suggested I was wrong:

    This is not a primary focus for us, though I have had to respond to media queries such as http://www.thesundayleader.lk/archive/20080803/issues-1.htm. The guy in the picture next to me was the man running national security during the war.

    If you use the internal search on our website, you will get more, but the most coherent is a comment I made on a PK discussion (link was in blog post you referred to).

    For a long time we were talking abt telecom regulation ignoring taxation. That is behind us now. Same needs to happen with security. I am beginning to move into this area.

    It is not that I am unaware of the pros and cons of anonymity: http://www.lbo.lk/fullstory.php?nid=538826416. But the principle that a connection to the network must be associated with a human being is as difficult to challenge as is the principle that all motor vehicles must be so associated.

  2. The response to my response: “We’re certainly not opposed to identification policies in principle, but more to the manner in which they have been implemented and the lack of consideration for downsides by policymakers. For the same ministries that have universal access policies to be prematurely erecting new barriers seems quite counterintuitive. And while cars may need to be registered, one can still find plenty of anonymous ways to travel; the SIM registration policies don’t aim to leave any such options, I’m afraid.”

  3. The PTA has banned the sale of SIMs from retail outlets. So how can you call Pakistan a model for dealing with unregistered SIMs?

    1. If you read the post carefully, you will see endorsement only of the availability of a database that can be checked by any customer to see how many SIMs are in his/her name.

    2. Firstly, sale at retailers has been stopped till they deploy biometric verification system. Secondly, is it really necessary to sale SIMs at retailers?. The regulators at least in the sub continent needs to understand that SIMs are not an FMCG product therefore strict controls needs to be established.

  4. What is wrong with treating voice or even data communication as a FMCG? This has been the reason we succeeded in connecting so many people so quickly to voice telephony.