Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) plans to effect a nationwide switch-off of counterfeit phones from the networks by employing the International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number.
IMEI is a unique number assigned to individual mobile phones. “It is important to authenticate your mobiles devices on purchase since cunning fakers are capable of producing look-alikes that many users may not be able to differentiate at the sales counters,” Tigo’s Head of Devices David Zachariah said last week.
The move has wholeheartedly been backed by Tigo Tanzania, one of the country’s leading telecom company that is running an awareness creation campaign targeting its customers and the general public.
Mobile phone users as a result may perceive the proposed switch-off by June 17th this year as heralding unprecedented problems to the users, but the stakeholders hold onto the opinion that the benefits outweigh the drawbacks in the long run.
TCRA and Tigo Tanzania, Tanzania’s leading mobile phone company, see the move as a prerequisite to the trends that are geared towards curbing internationally organized crimes, increasing revenue and fulfillment of the requirements by the country laws to harmonise communications countrywide.
Zachariah said all subscribers need to authenticate the IMEIs of their handsets for genuineness before lifting them off the counters. He said most counterfeits may resemble genuine ones by a mere look for most counterfeits steal the designs and trademarks of genuine products to deliberately deceive consumers.
For a customer to know whether a cell phone is genuine or not one should dial *#06#, upon which they will receive an IMEI number that again has to be sent as a text message to 15090 to receive a reply showing whether the cell phone is original or fake.
“Original handsets have inscribed in them coded identification marks on original phones to ensure traceability and proper user’s guide,” Zachariah said.
TCRA estimates that about 40% of mobile phones in use in the country are counterfeits. The TCRA Head of Corporate Affairs Innocent Mungy, says the move is in accordance to Tanzanian laws and the international resolve to curb the influx of fake handsets that not only do they not meet the threshold of health standards, but also rob the country of the much-needed revenues.
Speaking through the phone to this writer, he pointed out that billions of shillings are spent in Tanzania on the importation of substandard mobile phones, adding that Tanzania currently has a GSM subscriber base of 35 million and approximately 40% of these subscribers use counterfeit phones.
“The enforcement will boost consumer rights protection, increased revenue for the government via taxes; increased revenue for the genuine mobile phone manufacturers as well as improved GSM networks in the country. Of importance are health concerns. Many such phones don’t meet threshold health standards,” he said.
Regarding the time factor, TCRA says that unlike in Kenya where consumers were cut off within a short notice, TCRA has been preparing itself for the eventuality for the last four years.
TCRA has over the last four years been positioning themselves together with the mobile companies for smooth transition. That is why they have given the mobile services consumers up to the June 17th, 2016 to acclimatize themselves with world changes and trends.
East African Business Week.