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Tanzania Cracks The Whip On Counterfeits, Switching Off 600,000 Fake Phones

by Milicent Atieno
Tanzania Cracks The Whip On Counterfeits, Switching Off 600,000 Fake Phones

On Thursday, last week, the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) switched off more than 603,000 fake phones across the country. A move aimed at discouraging the proliferation of counterfeit devices into the market.

One resident, Amina Juma was cited by the Coast Week lamenting, “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.

TCRA say the exercise to bar the use of counterfeits within the Tanzanian telecommunication space was executed successfully. The authority says although many users with counterfeit devices suspected their phones were going to be blocked, the regulator used only the International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) to block just the cellular services.

The number of those affected – at least 603,000 users – is no small feat by all standards. This number represent about 2.9% of the total mobile users in the country, and without a doubt, the cellular service providers are going to feel some drop in their revenue. Regarding income made when subscribers make a voice call, send messages, subscribe to internet packages, and use their mobile money services.

Telecoms loss with the Counterfeits crackdown

As Rosalynn Mworia, Head of Communications at Vodacom explains, “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 use to.”

To mitigate their loss, telecoms are currently on a campaign to sell cheap but genuine handsets to the locals. Though it would be too soon to put figures on just how much the telecoms have lost, if the situation goes on long unabated, the loss could be bigger.

Innovative Crook Businessmen changing IMEI

However, the fight against counterfeit is like doctors treating a bacterial infection with antibiotics; there’s always a chance of mutation and developing drug resistance. In the case of telecoms regulators blocking phone IMEI, crude businesspeople can become innovative and simply change the devices’ IMEI. TCRA has already anticipated this move and issued a warning to anyone caught changing the IMEI that they will face ten years incarceration or pay $15,000 fine or both.

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