TCRA blocks 1.6 million stolen, fake phones

22Mar 2019
The Guardian Reporter
DAR ES SALAAM
The Guardian
TCRA blocks 1.6 million stolen, fake phones

THE Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) has blocked a total of 1,682,667 substandard and stolen mobile phones that have been identified through the Telecommunication Traffic Monitoring System (TTMS).

THE Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) board chairman Dr Jones Kilimbe.

Dr Jones Kilimbe, chairman of the TCRA board of directors told members of the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in Dar es Salaam yesterday that the number includes phone that used duplicate phone identity code known as IMEI number.

Also rendered useless by the regulators are mobile phones that were reported by original owners as having been stolen, he said.

This means theft of smart mobile phone that has been rampant in the country—in which some criminals made it an occupation is over because once the original owner reports the theft, the gadget is blocked and rendered useless.

The monitoring system has been useful in identifying fraudulent phone traffic including international calls made by service providers that would have been impossible to monitor without the technology, he said.

“We managed to find illegal routes and reduced the same from 65 per cent in 2013 to below 10 per cent in 2018,” he elaborated.

The state-of-the-art technology has also enabled the regulator to ascertain the quality of services given by mobile phone operators to customers, consumers’ SIM card profiles as well as applying the Central Equipment Identification Register (CEIR), he stated.

“A Central Equipment Identity Register is a database of the IMEI numbers of blacklisted handsets. ... Once a user reports to their operator about the theft, the mobile device’s IMEI number should be entered into the CEIR, supposedly making the device unusable in any network (although this does not always work),” an expert profile indicated.

In January, President John Magufuli officiated at the handing over of the monitoring system (TTMS) which the government procured in 2013 to scrutinize mobile communications and related money transfers.

TCRA Director General James Kilaba told reporters in Dar es Salaam at that time that economic activities related to information and communication technology (ICT) had grown and continued to grow in the country hence the need for a robust monitoring system.

In April 2016, President Magufuli sacked the then TCRA boss Ally Simba and disbanded the entire board for failing to oversee the monitoring of the industry, resulting in the loss of potential tax revenues of 400bn/- (USD182.15 million) a year since 2013 when the system was installed.

From that time, TCRA has taken legal action against individuals or executives of companies suspected to engage in fraudulent traffic and released a quality of service report for mobile phone operators regularly.

In July, 2017 six telecom companies were hit with a Sh10.9 record fine for violation of simcard registration and other shortcomings.  TCRA fined the major telecom operators including Vodacom, Tigo and Airtel for various breaches of regulations including money transfers, where mobile money users in Tanzania   grew to 18.08 million during the preceding year, reports indicated.