Tanzania Switches off Signal to “fake” phones, Over 600,000 Users Affected


Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) on Thursday midnight switched off 603,000 fake phones wreaking havoc to users.

“It was at around 12 midnight when I woke up to check my phone only to see an indication ‘no service’ that was when I realized that my phone was blocked,” said Amina Juma, a resident in the east African nation’s commercial capital Dar es Salaam.

TCRA Communications Manager Innocent Mungy said the exercise went as planned.

He said many people expected that every phone was going to be blocked but what were blocked were International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) numbers.

Mungy said a total of 603,000 mobile devices with invalid IMEI were blocked meaning that the entire 2.9 percent fake phones which were in people’s hands were blocked.

He warned traders against changing IMEI numbers of mobile devices because it was against the law, adding that whoever was caught will be subjected to a 15,000 U.S. dollars fine or 10 years in imprisonment or both punishments.

The switch-off also affected telecommunications companies who have lamented that they have incurred losses which they must find other ways to mitigate.

“There are immediate losses which as companies have encountered and this applies to the government also because the move means our customers will no longer carry out mobile transactions and communicate as they used to,” said Vodacom head of communications Rosalynn Mworia.

She, however, did not mention the loss saying it was very early, noting that the company has now embarked on a campaign to sell low price phones countrywide as a way of mitigating the loss.

TCRA announced last February that Tanzania was set to switch off all counterfeit mobile phones on June 16, 2016 to protect consumers against inferior phones, safeguard mobile payment systems and prevent crimes.

The move came at a time when estimates showed that 40 percent of mobile phone users in the country used fake handsets. Mobile networks will also be forbidden from activating new counterfeit devices bought after the switch-off deadline.