Unregistered subscribers to be cut off


Bereng Mpaki

MOBILE network users who fail to comply with the legal registration of SIM cards will be cut off until they do so, according to a new law.

The Communications (Subscriber Identity Module Registration) Regulations, 2021 seeks to enable easy identification of a mobile number user.

The new requirement will help curb criminal activities perpetrated with the use of mobile devices and SIM cards by anonymous users.

Lesotho’s two mobile network operators, Vodacom and Econet Telecom Lesotho (ETL), say they are ready to register existing and new SIM cards when the process legally kicks off by 24 June 2022.

The two companies this week said they were at advanced stages of putting up necessary infrastructure to facilitate registration of SIM cards for all users.

Unregistered users will be cut off until they register.

Vodacom’s managing director, Mohale Ralebitso said the company’s registration system would be ready early next month ahead of the 24 June commencement.

Mr Ralebitso was addressing the media during a meeting by regulator, Lesotho Communications Authority (LCA) where ETL managing director, Dennis Plaatjies was also present.

“We are ready to start SIM registration by early June 2022,” Mr Ralebitso said.

He noted they would conduct a pilot SIM registration on a limited basis ahead of the national roll-out to ensure readiness of their systems.

“Currently we are busy with the user authorisation testing (UAT) for the registration system that we have designed, and it will be ready by the end of May 2022 such that we can officially start the registration by the 24 June 2022.”

Mr Ralebitso said they were also hiring additional employees to help with the registration process over the next 12 months.

“We will have people working separately for the registration process and they will be contracted for the period of the registrations drive. We have already spent M8, 1 million to prepare for SIM registration,” he added.

The company would announce in due course on where and when registration services would be available around the country.

On his part, ETL managing Director, Dennis Plaatjies said they were also preparing to be ready by 24 June 2022.

They were targeting to wrap up the process before its allocated 12-month period.

“As ETL, we are also in the process of procuring a registration system from an external supplier, and our team is also on UAT and certain other nice modifications,” Mr Plaatjies noted.

He said their system would verify the authenticity of the user’s ID card in real time through an interface with the national Identity and Civil Registry at the Home Affairs Ministry.

On his part, Thato Ponya, the LCA’s chief regulatory officer indicated that the regulations had considered public input after initially being rejected by parliament.

“This bill took a journey before it was passed. I remember last year after its gazetting, the media were against it and even called it a draconian law.

“Parliament ordered us to go back and conduct thorough public consultations on the regulations, and we did that accordingly. So we have now developed the new regulations which reflect the public input,” Mr Ponya said.

The National Assembly had found that some of the key stakeholders whose input was not sought included during development of the initial subordinate law covering the media and security agencies like the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF), Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS), the National Security Service (NSS) and the Lesotho Correctional Service (LCS).

Mr Ponya said users be required to produce their national IDs for SIM registration since 90 percent of the population now had the documents.

He added that stakeholders had been given a six-month grace period before implementation of the regulations from 24 June 2022. Registration is given 12 months to be completed.

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