Zambia: Counterfeit Phones Banned

Zambia’s Information Communication Technology Authority (ZICTA) announced a plan Monday to ban the use of counterfeit mobile phones.

The plan will require cell phone users to register their International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) and SIM card details with their service provider. Failure to register will result in “SIM deactivation” and lockout from the national telecommunications networks, according to the news alert on ZICTA’s website. The registration drive is to begin immediately, with a cutoff date to be “announced in due course.”

An IMEI is a unique international coding system given to each cell phone. IMEI’s, in conjunction with SIM card details, facilitate the identification of counterfeit handsets -- if the proper registry is in place.

Zambia’s move to disconnect counterfeit mobile phones using a registration program follows similar moves by other African nations, including Uganda and Kenya.

A program run by the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) saw service providers disconnect on January 8 more than 2.4 million phones belonging to owners who failed to heed a December 31 government deadline for registration of SIM card data. Subscribers who have had their phones suspended have 90 days to register their SIM details with service providers, or  risk the reallocation of their number to a new subscriber. All new subscribers will register details upon purchase of a line.

Uganda has given users until January 31 to register their devices or face a denial of service. The plan, spearheaded by the Uganda Communications Commission, gives mobile phone users in Uganda a six-month grace period -- until the end of July  -- to register before losing their numbers completely.