Algeria scraps 3 mln SIM cards

Algerian mobile telephone operators must deactivate more than three million unregistered SIM cards on Sunday to help prevent guerrillas setting off bombs using the devices, a security official said.

Algeria scraps 3 mln SIM cards

Some recent bombings claimed by al Qaeda's north Africa wing were detonated remotely using signals sent from handsets equipped with unregistered SIM cards, said the official, who declined to identified.

For years operators in the north African country have been allowed to sell the cards over the counter without asking to see identification and registering the purchaser's personal details.

But this year the government introduced new regulations requiring personal details to be recorded.

The industry regulator, the Regulation Authority of Post and Telecommunications, ordered mobile operators in March 2008 to deactivate unidentified SIM cards before April 30.

It later extended the deadline to May 31 to give the operators more time to plan for the change.

"There won't be any new extension of the deadline, and the unidentified SIMs must be deactivated on May 31," the security official said.

The country has more than 20 million SIM cards in operation, sharply up from an estimated 100,000 before the authorities lifted a monopoly in the sector in 2001.

Egypt's Orascom Telecom is the main player, despite growing competition from Algerian state-owned firm Mobilis and Qatar Telecommunications Co.

"Fierce competition is behind this situation. The operators, in a move to make it more simple for clients to get a PIN, from the beginning sold them without requesting any ID," telecoms expert Faycal Medjahed said.

Reuters

Güncelleme Tarihi: 01 Haziran 2008, 16:09
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