The Government of Liberia, through the Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA) and the National Identification Registry agency (NIR), together with mobile network operators over the weekend signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on new SIM/RUIM registration regulations.
The revised regulations framework will see the National Identification Registry join the Liberia Telecommunications Authority and both mobile network operators, Lonestar Cell MTN and Orange Liberia, in carrying out strategies to achieve its objectives.
The implementation of the regulation will improve national security in the country, provide a platform for the efficient functioning of other electronic communications services including mobile money transfer and other such services; enhance the chance of subscribers replacing their SIM Cards in the event of loss; minimize the opportunity for communication frauds (grey routing of calls) as operators are mandated to activate only registered SIM/RUIM Cards on their networks; and ensure the creation of a reliable database of subscribers by operators.
Edwina C. Zackpah, Acting Chairperson, LTA, says that the signing of the MOU among telecommunications stakeholders followed a series of discussions over the past years. She further adds that with shared responsibilities of stakeholders, the security of SIM/RUIM card holders is guaranteed.
“We all know that there are a lot of crimes that are committed using the telephone, and one of the first places that the police will go when investigating a crime is the cellphone; what were the last sets of numbers you called and who is associated with those numbers? You may never know who committed such a crime if the SIM card they are investigating is not properly registered. So this is a significant milestone for the country,” she says.
The RUIM card was designed to replicate many of the advantages of the Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) card on the GSM network. Phones on the CDMA network that do not use RUIM cards store all of the user’s information in the phone itself; if the user wants to change phones, he or she has to go to the cell phone service provider, who will transfer the information to the new handset. GSM network phones use SIM cards, which can store all of the user’s information, so activating a new phone is often as simple as moving the card from one handset to another.
Stating the role of his agency, J.Tiah Nagbe, Executive Director of the NIR, says that through the revised regulation, mobile network subscribers must have a national identification card from his agency. This, he says, will benefit every actor involved in the framework of the revised regulations, including customers of mobile network operators.
“For the country and Government, this will mean that we are significantly reducing risks associated with the use of telecommunications services. For the LTA, this will mean efficiency and transparency in regulating the sector, as well as potential revenue increase from deeper penetration of mobile services, as the identification challenge is resolved. For the mobile network operators, authentic identification of customers means they do not have to worry much about potential fines from violation of the registration regulations, a significant reduction in the cost of identity-related fraud. For the consumers of mobile services, it means that many will find it much easier to access the services because identification will not be much of a problem. For the NIR, this means an increase in enrollment and the value of the entity to Liberia,” he says.
Under the agreement, according to Nagbe, the NIR is expected to enroll about one million citizens and residents in over 3,000 locations across the country over the next one year.
The new regulations will be tested for three months (November to January). The pilot project, according to LTA, will be evaluated in February and full implementation of the exercise is expected to begin in March.