Mobile operators okay TCRA plan to switch off fake handsets

08Feb 2016
Felister Peter
The Guardian
Mobile operators okay TCRA plan to switch off fake handsets

MOBILE phone companies have backed the move by Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) to switch off fake telephone handsets by June, this year, saying it will guarantee consumers value for money since only genuine devices will be in the market.

Nicodemus Mushi

According to TCRA, about 40 per cent of mobile phones in the country are counterfeit and will be disabled by June, this year.  In an exclusive telephone interview, Tanzania Telecommunications Company Limited (TTCL) Public Relations manager Nicodemus Mushi said: “We back the government move to switch off fake mobile phones because it will ensure ‘value for money’ as consumers will only have access to genuine products.”  Mushi said that some buyers were losing money by purchasing mobile phones bearing big brand names only to realise they were fake and could not efficiently perform some functions as compared to genuine ones.  He noted that although fake handsets performed some functions such as making calls and conducting short message services they were inactive and could not support a number of various programmes. Mushi said genuine mobile phones were available at various markets in the country and called on Tanzanians to make sure they followed proper channels and purchased goods, not necessarily phones, from recognised stores. He said TTCL sold genuine mobile phones at affordable prices. He associated the problem of fake handsets with increased demand for ‘smart phones,’ especially in urban areas. Mushi said taking into consideration the importance of communication, the government should think of slightly lowering some of the import tax on communication devices. He, however, noted that tax collection was an important aspect of the government because it facilitated implementation of development projects and that they were in support of its efforts towards revenue collection. He said once import tariffs were lowered, companies would import and sell genuine handsets at affordable prices. He added that TTCL has been selling its mobile handsets and other products at reasonable prices as they mostly aim to facilitate communication between the people. For his part, Tigo Tanzania public relations officer John Wanyancha said the government’s plan was good, adding that his company supported it. He said the company would soon launch a campaign in relation to the matter. Without giving much detail, he said the campaign was aimed at sensitising its customers and the general public on the importance of purchasing and using genuine handsets. He, however, could not reveal the exact date of the campaign. “We are aware of the government’s plan on fake handsets…we will soon launch a campaign to sensitise people on the matter”, he said. Last week, TCRA head of Corporate Communications Innocent Mungy told journalists that all fake handsets would be disabled this June. He was speaking at a brief seminar aimed at creating awareness among journalists on the agency’s new ‘Central Equipment Identification Register (CEIR).’ According to Mungy, CEIR is a database for International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) numbers of all blacklisted mobile handsets in the country. Whenever a cellphone is reported as fake or stolen, the phone's IMEI number will go into the CEIR, supposedly making the device unusable in any network. He said many handsets will be deemed fake if their IMEI number (the unique identifier for each phone) is also not recognised by an international database. In 2012, about 1.5 million Kenyans were affected by a similar switch-off exercise carried-out by the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) to clamp down on counterfeit handsets.