Unregistered SIM cards a headache

The users whose cellphone numbers MTC suspended as of Monday represent approximately N$8.1 million in monthly revenue for the company.
Iréne-Mari van der Walt
MTC could suffer an estimated monthly loss of N$8.1 million due to the suspension of 323 236 (16.7%) of its users' services.
“MTC would have welcomed an extended period to register all our customers. Although this is not an ideal situation, the reality is that MTC, as outlined by the authority [the regulatory Authority for Communications in Namibia (CRAN)], must follow the directive and suspend the numbers," MTC's head of communications, Tim Ekandjo said in a statement.
Ekandjo explained that mobile phone numbers that have been suspended are not completely lost yet, but will remain suspended for three months - until 1 July this year. If these numbers are not registered before then, they will expire. After that, a user will not be able to get the same number back.
MTC spokesperson, Erasmus Nekundi, confirmed that no aspect of the registration process will change from now on. He added that all call credit and Aweh packages will be available for use when a number is registered.
The only exception is Aweh packages that have expired during the period the user's number was suspended.
Nekundi explained that when a user currently registers his number, the number will not work immediately, but that newly registered numbers are regularly activated during the day.
"We activate the numbers piece by piece. We try to do this as often as possible - about every hour or at least every two hours. So the number is not immediately available, but neither will we let a customer have to wait all day for the number to work again. We are doing everything we can in that regard," he said.
Better outcome
However, MTC maintains that a longer registration period could have made a better outcome possible.
“MTC has always maintained that it will take 24 months to successfully finalise the SIM card registration process. Despite our best efforts, we encountered challenges in completing the registration process for all of our users, as previously communicated to CRAN, including but not limited to the geographic extent of our country and socioeconomic conditions that made it impossible for members of the public to register on time," according to the MTC statement.
Telecom Namibia (TN) said in a media release that 191 598 unregistered mobile phone numbers had been suspended after the deadline. TN had 442 410 active users on 31 March but counted 250 812 registered users after the deadline.
CRAN confirmed yesterday that 1 868 412 SIM cards of 2 387 330 active SIM cards were registered by the deadline, representing 78.26% of all SIM cards.
CRAN chief executive Emilia Nghikembua said that numbers that are currently suspended will receive notifications if they try to send SMS or make calls. No text messages or calls can be made to these numbers.
Indications from those queuing in the capital yesterday to register their SIM cards are that all MTC registration points across the city were packed. A reader also shared that residents of Katima Mulilo who wanted to register their SIM cards at the MTC office were standing in long queues.
Those who want to skip the queues at MTC's registration points can register online at www.mtc.com.na/sim-registration – [email protected]