Process to register SIM cards going slow

MOBILE operators have just over 15 months to complete registration of all SIM card users, but analysts predict a shortfall that could hobble subscriber growth.

When the Regulation of Interception of Communications and provision of Communication-Related Information Act was implemented in July, mobile operators assured the public that they were ready.

But reports of confusion around the country have revealed that numerous mobile outlets were not ready two months into the process.

The entire exercise was given an 18-month time limit by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa, following which unregistered SIM cards would be switched off.

There are around 45million active SIM cards in South Africa.

According to Africa Analysis director Dobek Pater, a minimum of 2,5million SIM cards would need to be registered each month.

"Anecdotal evidence has shown that the process is moving slowly where capacity is available, but this could just be a function of a slow response from the public," he said.

He said that a "mad rush" would ensue when people started to realise how close the December 2010 deadline was. A process similar to Rica has also been implemented in other African countries, most recently in Nigeria.

Various mobile operators were reluctant to provide information about their progress so far, with the spokesperson of a cellular company saying: "You won't get statistics from anyone."

Denis Smit said the biggest problem with the process was the poor communication by operators and government.

"Most people just don't know about it," he said. "There will definitely be a shortfall when the deadline comes, but the regulator won't be implementing any extensions."