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A final call for unregistered SIMs

A employee organises SIM cards at a mobile phone shop in central Phnom Penh late last year.
A employee organises SIM cards at a mobile phone shop in central Phnom Penh late last year. Pha Lina

A final call for unregistered SIMs

The national telecom regulator has set November 1 as the final deadline for mobile phone operators to register all of their clients’ mobile SIM cards or face cancellation – marking the latest ultimatum in a government crackdown that began over a year ago.

Im Vutha, spokesman for the Telecom Regulator of Cambodia (TRC), said yesterday that the date was set after the government called on all mobile operators to meet and present their data for SIM card registration. The data showed that despite a year-long campaign to register all SIM cards, about 1.5 million of the Kingdom’s 19.3 million SIM card subscriptions still lack proper registration.

“We have given mobile operators and customers enough time to register their SIM cards,” he said. “It is time to take action and make sure the amount of unregistered SIM cards continues to get smaller and smaller.”

The government announced in a statement late last month that telecom operators and retailers were prohibited from selling pre-activated SIM cards to consumers, and unless registered by November 1, all active SIMs were to be cancelled. The statement also ordered service providers to alert customers with unregistered SIM cards at least seven times within seven days before they are deactivated.

The government has said the crackdown on unregistered SIMs is aimed at reducing criminal activity and protecting national security.

Vutha said the government would take more control in monitoring telecom operators’ databases to ensure that they were still not permitting unregistered SIM cards to flood the streets.

“We have a plan to control unregistered SIM cards by using an online management system that will also allow us to find out easier who is not registered,” he said. “More enforcement action will come in the future.”

Som Sineth, who continues to use an unregistered SIM card from telecom giant Smart Axiata, said that nothing has changed with her subscription and that over the past year she has not received any alerts from the company, either through SMS or customer service calls, that she could face deactivation.

“Since I have been using this unregistered SIM card, everything is normal,” she said. “I know if they take action I will not be able to use this card anymore, but I can just buy a new one.”

Chhim Sang Heng, owner of Hak Se Phone shop, said his shop has yet to receive any information from any of Cambodia’s telecom operators regarding the government’s November 1 deadline. However, he insisted his shop only sells registered Smart, Cellcard and Meftfone SIM cards.

“We only sell SIM cards to those that have proper identification,” he said.

Heng said the inconvenience of registration has slowed overall sales at his shop, and he believes small phone shops were still making profits off of unregistered sales.

Another SIM card seller, Siv Mey from the Vuthy Phone shop, said that SIM card sales have dropped by 40 percent at his shop since the government began threatening a long-delayed crackdown.

“Most customers prefer to buy unregistered SIM cards because they feel it is easier,” she said, adding that unregistered SIM cards can still be found in the majority of markets in Phnom Penh and cost as little as $0.50.

Thomas Hundt, CEO of Smart Axiata said that the company was making every effort to ensure that customers do not get disconnected by trying to notify them through multiple channels ahead of the government’s deadline.

He said the company would abide by the governments deadline “for the purpose of national security and subscriber protection”.

“Smart, together with the industry, continues to consult with TRC and Ministry of Interior on addressing this exercise effectively, while minimising the impact and limiting disruption to subscribers,” he said.

Representatives of the other major mobile operators did not respond by press time to interview requests.

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