A SYSTEM known as Central Equipment Identification Register (CEIR) to enhance mobile phone security and detect counterfeit handsets in the country is on the offing.
To enforce the new identification mechanism, the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) has set a six-month deadline for mobile phone users to switch from counterfeit to original phones before the end of June 2016 when fake phones go off the air.
TCRA Director General Dr Ally Simba said the CEIR will enable the regulatory authority to manage the communication sector better in the wake of the ever-increasing wave of mobile phone theft in the country.
Using the users mobile handset’s special international mobile equipment identity number (IMEI), service providers can block the stolen handsets, thus rendering the gadget useless for both the thief or whoever will buy the stolen phone. “Users will provide the IMEIs to their service providers who will then block the phone. The phone will not work for all service providers once blocked.
This will also help curb use of phones in illegal activities,” Dr Simba explained. The CIER system launched by TCRA yesterday will be used to register IMEs for all mobile phone users in the country, which will then facilitate the security controls.
Dr Simba added that the implementation of CEIR is a requirement by the Electronic and Postal Communications Regulations 2011, which also requires all mobile phone service providers to establish the Equipment Identity Register (EIR), which started formally in 2014 for all the service providers.
Already the system is in place for Zantel, Vodacom, Airtel, Tigo and Smart, while the process is in different stages for TTCL, Smile and Viettel, Dr Simba told reporters.
The DG noted that the communication sector in the country has grown tremendously, noting that registered mobile phone lines have increased to 35,950,090 by September 2015 from 2,963,737 in 2005.
A study conducted by TCRA showed that the average costs of an original mobile phone is between 20,000/- to 60,000/- for ordinary phones, while smart phones sell at between 100,000/- and 1.5m/-.
“This means prices of the ordinary phones are affordable to the majority of Tanzanians, without any difficulties. Once the counterfeit phones are blocked,” Dr Simba explained, noting that for the next six months, the regulatory authority will focus on educating the public on how to recognise genuine mobile phones.
Speaking during the launch, the Chief Secretary, Ambassador Ombeni Sefue, said the CEIR system has come at the right time to control stealing of mobile phone handsets and use of fake mobiles phones in circulation in the country.
Ambassador Sefue called on those depending on stealing and selling stolen mobile phones to seek other appropriate and legal lines of business. He noted the presence of and condemned impostors who con others by pretending to be senior government officials.
“This system will put a stop to offensive tendencies by some people, especially those who pretend to be government officials to con others of their money and stealing mobile phones and reselling them,” he explained.
Establishment of the CIER system is part TCRA’s broader system in improving the communication sector in the country, in 2013, the government installed the Telecommunications Traffic Monitoring System (TTMS), which among other important things, enables the regulatory authority to identify fraudulent operators causing government revenue losses.
TTMS also provided the government with a new source of revenue from international calls as well as providing the correct data on communication in the country. The system also keeps track of mobile money transactions through its Mobile Money Monitoring component, implemented to follow up more closely mobile money transactions.
TCRA is sharing the system with the Bank of Tanzania (BoT) and the Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) to ensure government revenue is collected on time. According to the TCRA director general, the Mobile Money Monitoring component will enable the government enact appropriate policies and legislations that will promote better use of the service.