How do you tell if the mobile phone you are carrying is fake? Well, the telecom industry regulator, Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) has over the last couple of years promised to crack down on fake communication gadgets, citing both quality and health risks associated with their use. In 2019, Uganda started a move to switch off counterfeit phones after installing a central equipment identity registry.
The move by UCC follows an increased influx of fake mobile handsets into the Ugandan market in the past. Ibrahim Bbosa, the then director of public and corporate affairs at UCC, said the central equipment identity registry is to be linked to each of the telecom operator systems.
“As I speak the system is analyzing to see how many phones in our market are genuine and those that are counterfeit,” he told journalists at a press conference in Kampala.
UCC said the system will cluster mobile users under three separate lists; namely, the white list which will have genuine phones, a grey list that will have phones that are either roaming and a black list that won’t allow a counterfeit handset to operate on any network.
All mobile phone devices can be authenticated by a user when one feeds them in the imprinted IMEI signature.
UCC early this August officially launched the Anti-Illegitimate Mobile Communication Devices Campaign in Uganda. The campaign seeks to draw public attention to discourage the use of such devices.
Under Section 5(k) of the Uganda Communications Act 2013, the Uganda Communications Commission is mandated to promote and safeguard the interests of consumers and operators regarding the quality of communications services and equipment.
Section 5 (1) of the Act also tasks UCC to set national standards and ensure compliance with national and international standards and obligations laid down by international communications agreements and treaties, to which it is a party. These include Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC), Radio Frequency (RF) requirements, Equipment Safety and Health Requirements, Technology, and Performance and Functionality Requirements.
UCC is joining the rest of the world in fighting against the use of substandard communication devices. The campaign is dubbed “SIMU KLEAR”
Since February 2022, UCC has successfully implemented a concerted stakeholder engagement process entailing engagements with the public sector, sister agencies and regulators, policymakers, industry actors and the media, among others.
“Today, we officially launch the 2nd phase of the “SIMU KLEAR” campaign focusing on the call-to-action for customers through the launch of code 197”, says Fred Otunnu, UCC’s current Director of Corporate Affairs.
“When you buy any device, you want it to deliver the performance, functionality and safety expected of devices in that family. This is the purpose of standards. Illegitimate mobile communications devices compromise on those standards in favour of returns, impacting value proposition and safety,” he added.
Otunnu said every legitimate mobile phone has a unique identifier that registers it to a carrier network, whose number is called the International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI), adding that IMEI number can be used to verify the legitimacy of a phone.
For one to check whether their phone is legitimate or not, Dial *197*4# and the IMEI will automatically be displayed on the phone screen. Alternatively, the IMEI number can be found on the mobile phone’s body, usually under the battery. You can also *#06# to know your mobile phone IMEI.
It is estimated that over 180 million counterfeit mobile phones are sold globally per annum, representing a potential loss of €45bn to legitimate device manufacturers and governments.
The campaign will run for over six months to build public awareness about the dangers of using illegitimate mobile communication devices.
Fred Muwema, the Director for Legal and Corporate Affairs at the Anti-Counterfeit Network Africa, says fake phones have a big effect on the economy of the country.
“This is a very good campaign that will ensure we clear the market of fake phones. It is long overdue. You have seen cases of phones that explode and affect people but the most important thing is that there are electromagnetic waves emitted by the fake phones and are responsible for the so many cancers which are common in the country,” Muwema said.
He noted that fake phones are responsible for the poor network and dropped calls that are very common in the country among phone users.
“If the country has a lot of fake phones, it means we are going to have many dropped calls. You don’t need to have gone to school to know that the more dropped calls you have, the more revenue and business is lost. “
He commended UCC for the campaign which will empower consumers to detect genuine from fake phones but also have the power to choose the genuine ones.