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NCC, GSM Operators, Technology and The Plight of The People

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Chidiebere Nwankwo
08082477724; 08050498517
cnwankwo@ebusinesslife.com.ng; sirchido1@yahoo.co.uk

After I lost my phone early this month to those that felt it was more important to them, I began to understand the complaint that follows the frustrations of subscribers when they lose their phones or their Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) card, and want to go through the process of getting back their lines.

Sometimes some of them prefer to let go the old number and go for a new SIM because of the “hassles” involved. This trend upsets the system as operators still retain these numbers as part of their subscriber figures, hence churning out wrong data. But of course, the claim that the record is of ‘Active Subscribers’ is debatable. Anyway, that is not the issue today.

When a subscriber losses his SIM Card, the regulator has stipulated that the process of retrieval or being given another SIM by the network operator will include the presentation of the original SIM pack, and presentation of a means of identification and answering of some salient questions that will determine ownership of the SIM meant for replacement.

Some of the highlights from the new regulation include:

Minimum requirements for SIM Replacement/Swap

  • The phone number must be registered.
  • Please provide the SIM pack or other evidence of direct purchase/ownership. Where SIM pack is unavailable, a sworn affidavit attesting to ownership and loss is required.
  • The applicant must provide the following:
  • Three (3) frequently-dialed numbers
  • Details of last recharge activities.
  • A valid form of photo ID, defined as International Passport, Driver’s License, National ID Card, Voters Identification Card (NINs slip with ID number are also accepted).

However, the challenge lies with the fact that most people that come for SIM replacement over the years must have misplaced the SIM pack as well. Therefore, most people are forced to go through the affidavit swearing way.

For mine which was lost at Victoria Island, I had to go to the court at Ikeja, and come back to the service provider’s Customer Center to have the SIM replaced.

So, while trying to use technology to simplify processes, we still seem to like the complications associated with analogue lifestyle.

What is wrong with just walking into a Customer Center of any of the operators, report the loss or misplacement of your SIM, fill out the form that proves ownership, and when they pop up your data, it shows your biometric data and your picture which shows that you are the real owner of the lost SIM.

BUT, the NCC has made this a bit difficult for operators to take on this easy way.

While drafting the SIM Replacement regulation, the Commission noted that “Operators are not expected to keep pictures of customers captured during the SIM Card Registration exercise.” This was despite operators’ readiness to retain the data (including the picture of the subscriber) but the regulator insists that “operators are prohibited from retaining the biometrics of any subscriber after transmission thereof to the Central Database.”

This has not only put pressure on the subscriber who loses his SIM, but also gives him the easier alternative of buying another SIM card and just registering it as a new user, which adds to the data load of operators. Also in cases of stolen phone/SIM, it further complicates issues if the thief wants to use the SIM for fraudulent activities, and the subscriber, due to the undue stress of SIM replacement, decides to buy a new one and forget the old SIM.

Although the Commission has made a provision for exceptional cases where a customer is unable to visit any of the walk-in centers to personally effect SIM Replacement with very strict conditions for the proxy. These conditions include all of the regular, plus:

  • Provision of the SIM Pack or receipt or a sworn affidavit of loss should be introduced.
  • The proxy should also be made to swear an affidavit stating the reason for replacement and inability of the owner to carry out the replacement personally.
  • An authorization letter from the owner

Whereas the confirmation/security measures put in place for the proxy may be understandable, the process should be simplified for the subscriber who already has his data in the system.

Technology is meant to ease processes, but where we decide to neglect the benefits of technology and still go on manual processes, then the country still has a long way to go in tech utilization, even when it is available.

The stress subscribers go through to replace their lost/stolen SIM is quite unnecessary, especially where they had already gone through the SIM registration process. NCC should consider this. Digital access works, so let us use it. Technology usage is to be practiced, let us start now.

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