It might be authentic, and even performs as expected, but your communication device could well have been stolen. And suppose it is stolen or reported as lost, in that case, its days are numbered because the Ministry of ICT and National Guidance, Uganda Communications Commission (the Commission) and other partners in the Communications sector have undertaken measures to end the theft of phones in Uganda.
Reporting your stolen mobile phone not only protects your mobile money but also stops someone using your phone to commit a crime and incriminating you. A stolen communications device like a mobile phone, tablet, router or other communication gadgets with a legitimate IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) number can now be blocked from accessing the network if reported.
Using stolen devices makes it more difficult for law enforcement agencies to track down persons that are intent on using mobile devices to facilitate crime.
The proliferation of stolen devices is encouraged by smartphones and ICT accessories’ high value, making them lucrative business and a target for criminals. As such, phones are some of the most stolen items in Uganda.
The Commission, which is legally mandated to authenticate communications apparatus, operates an equipment identifier through which Phone devices can be denied access to the network if they are stolen, reported lost or not type-approved.
The equipment identifier can render stolen phones worthless as any device reported lost or stolen can be blocked if the service provider is requested to take such action.
When a phone is reported to police, a confirmation note or letter is given which is taken to the operator. The operator will block the phone from being used even with another SIM card and ensure that it cannot be used on another network.
THE LEGAL FRAMEWORK
Section 5(k) of the Uganda Communications Act 2013 mandates UCC “to promote and safeguard the interests of consumers and operators as regards the quality of communications services and equipment.”
In line with that provision, one of the Commission’s functions is to type-approve or authenticate communication equipment, apparatus or devices to ensure compliance with internationally accepted standards.
Section 93 of the Act empowers the Minister of ICT and National Guidance to “make regulations for the better carrying into effect the provisions of this Act” in consultation with the Commission and with the approval of Parliament.
Accordingly, the Minister early last year issued the Uganda Communications (Centralised Equipment Identification Register) Regulations 2019 to “detect and deny communications services operated on an unauthorised or blacklisted communications apparatus.”
The Regulations’ primary objective is “to provide a procedure for reporting the use of unauthorised communications apparatus, and a means to disable the functioning of unauthorised, stolen or blacklisted communications apparatus.”
For stolen or lost devices, the equipment identifier manager is empowered to blacklist all communications apparatuses reported as stolen, damaged, and lost upon receipt of a Police statement. With that, the Regulations indicate, a service operator shall deny service to the blacklisted device.
CHECKING THE IMEI OF YOUR DEVICE
As such, customers are advised to check the IMEI before purchasing a device. This can be done by simply dialling *#06#. In most phones, the IMEI is usually printed inside the handset, below the battery.
This 15-digit code is assigned to each mobile device manufactured according to internationally agreed safety and quality requirements. In simple terms, an IMEI is the serial number of a mobile device.
The IMEI is automatically registered with the mobile service provider as soon as a device has been activated. For every call made, the mobile device provider gets to know the IMEI number. If the device is dual-SIM by design, both SIM cards can be connected to the network simultaneously; it has two IMEI numbers.
To promote and safeguard the interests of consumers, the Commission is undertaking the following:
- Easing the process of reporting and identifying stolen or lost devices by establishing an Equipment Identifier
- Working with telecommunication operators to enforce the deactivation of stolen and lost phones reported as such.
- Partnering with the Uganda Police to enforce compliance with the legal aspects of phones reported as stolen or lost in Uganda
The Commission is banking on telecommunications service providers, the police, consumers and other stakeholders to ensure a stolen communication device free Uganda.