Over 300, 000 cellphone subscribers in Botswana will be de-activated and forced to buy new replacement simcards end of this month, the regulator confirmed yesterday amidst claims that the deadline for registration has been extended up to January 31st.
Although there have been reports that the deadline for simcard registration has been extended for 31 days, the Botswana Telecommunications Authority (BTA) spokesman Patrick Nyelesi yesterday told Mmegi they expect the unregistered 303, 368 subscribers to be de-activated and disconnected come month end. Botswana has slightly over two million mobile phone subscribers.
Nyelesi also added that only newly acquired simcards can be registered between now and January 31, adding that after this date any new simcard acquired will have to be registered before use.
The BTA official's comment comes at a time when Mmegi has learnt that the three cellphone operators, namely Mascom, Orange, and Be Mobile have been persuading the regulator to relax its stringent rules as the de-activation and disconnection of the simcards would have a serious knock on their returns.
Mmegi understands that BTA has not considered this proposal from the cellphone operators, although Orange and Be Mobile spokesmen refused to comment when Mmegi approached them about the issue recently. Karabo Tlhabiwe of Orange and Golekanye Molapisi of Be Mobile refused to disclose the figure of their unregistered subscribers, and referred the rest of the questions to the regulator. BTA would not comment on the proposal from the cellphone operators, but confirmed they expect over
The BTA says at the end of the registration exercise (31 December 2009) the three operators combined, registered a total of 2, 026, 142 (Two million and twenty six thousand one hundred and forty two) subscribers representing 85% of the total prepaid subscriber base of 2, 394, 445 (Two million three hundred and ninety four thousand four hundred and forty five).
A total of 303, 368 subscribers remained unregistered as at 31 December 2009, representing 15% of the total prepaid subscriber base.
The announcement by BTA that unregistered simcards will be de-activated appears to have come as a blow to the cellphone operators who only managed to get the BTA to suspend de-activation of unregistered simcards until end of December.
However Nyelesi of the BTA does not see the regulator's action as heavy handed. "It is not clear what tough stance is being referred to. Consultation between BTA and the mobile operators has been ongoing throughout the registration period and the December 31, 2009 deadline was known by all parties since the announcement of the commencement date of the registration process on 9 July 2008", Nyelesi said in response.