KAMPALA – Users of fake or cloned phones in Uganda will soon be unable to get connectivity from any of the networks, the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) has said.
This came as the telecoms regulator said it was finalising plans to deploy an end-to-end technology that would detect and block substandard devices from the networks.
UCC Head of public relations Mr. Ibrahim Bbossa who was speaking to a local television station said the decision was arrived at after due consultations with stakeholders over the menace of cloned and fake phones, which, aside from causing economic loss to the country, also endangers lives of the users.
“We have just finished installing software which is now tests,” he said confirming that the issues of counterfeit phones and other ICTs have been on the rise.
Mr. Bbossa said the Commission would deploy a Mobile Device Management System (MDMS) with the capacity to facilitate the mandatory registration of all SIM-based devices in Uganda, block all stolen, counterfeit, illegal or otherwise substandard SIM-based devices from Operators’ networks and interface with the Customs Service, tax authority, security agencies, standards organisations and other relevant agencies to ensure the full registration, payment of duties and taxes due on those devices and the protection of security and privacy of users in Uganda.
To arrive at the decision, several consultative forums had been held with stakeholders, which included the Uganda Customs Service (NCS), mobile network operators (MNOs), original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), security agencies, standards organizations, and equipment and solution vendors.
Explaining how the system would work to detect cloned or fake phones, the UCC says all mobile devices have International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI), which are allocated by the GSMA and that MDMS would be connected to the GSMA database for easy detection of devices with fake IMEI once they are connected to any of the networks in the country.
While noting that counterfeiting is a global problem, which Uganda is not insulated from, the UCC notes the challenges posed by the menace are quite devastating, as it has been hindering the progress made so far in ICT usage and processes in terms of its economic, social, environmental and security impacts on the country.
“The unchecked import and use of unregistered, cloned, substandard, counterfeit, stolen and or non-compliant devices pose a considerable threat to Quality of Service and Experience, security, amongst others in Uganda,” Mr. Bbosa said.
He said mechanism that is undergoing intense tests will also disconnect any stolen phone once reported by users.
The issue of a phone being stolen and used without the owners consent will be history once a phone is reported as stolen because the system will detect it and disconnect it,”he confirmed adding that “the person will not be able to use it if they they changed simcards.”
Some mobile traders in the popular Kampala downtown had recently blamed top business men among them for the proliferation of fake phones in the market and across the country but noted that the business thrives because many Ugandans want cheap phones.
They noted that the demand for these phones encourage the business men, who are also owners of phone shops in downtown and other parts of the country to go to China where they strike deal with some OEMs to manufacture substandard phones and import to Uganda and other African markets.
One of the phone traders at the market who identified himself simply as Nobert K real name Norbert Katusiime said the businessmen have realized that to reach the mass market, the prices of the phones must be affordable, as the cost of original smartphones are not friendly to large categories of phone users.
“This is why they go to China to order some of these smartphones with lower specifications compared to the original ones from the OEMs,” he explained.
Nobert K, who displays his wares by the roadside near new taxi park in downtown, said most small traders by the road side got their wares from the big shop owners.
“Most of us here cannot afford to go to China or import anything; we get the phones from the shop owners.”