News and Views

Uganda delays fake mobile switch-off date until 2013

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Uganda has delayed plans to switch off “fake” mobile phones until 1 July 2013.

The crackdown – which is designed to prevent counterfeit handsets connecting to local networks – had originally been planned to come into effect this month.

Kenya implemented a ban in October disconnecting millions of devices.

The Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) has suggested about 30% of East Africa’s 17 million mobiles are illegitimate copies of popular brands and models.

Users have until March to make sure their Sim card is registered with the regulator ahead of the action.

They are also asked to verify the 15-digit IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) code of legal devices. Fakes usually do not have an IMEI code or have copied another one.

The UCC says the moves will help law enforcement agencies track criminals who use unregistered devices for illegal activities.

Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania are among other African nations to have discussed counterfeit phone bans.

Dropped calls

Fake phones are popular because they are sold at significantly cheaper prices than official models – in part because retailers have avoided paying import taxes.

But officials suggest they can pose health risks. They say the handsets have not been tested to meet safety standards meaning that they may suffer higher than recommended radiation levels or battery leaks.

They also say that because the phones had not been properly configured for local networks that they can cause dropped calls for all users.

The UCC has faced complaints that service quality has worsened over recent months.

The regulator has also threatened network providers with fines if they are responsible for other causes of blocked or dropped calls, or loss of coverage.

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