PNG SIM card registration extension

UPNG students with their mobile phones (Credit: Amanda Watson)
UPNG students with their mobile phones (Credit: Amanda Watson)
Written by Amanda H A Watson

PNG Communications Minister Sam Basil has decided to extend the deadline for mobile phone subscriber identity module (SIM) card registration by over two months, to July 31 2018.

This will give more time for citizens to register their mobile phones, thus ensuring that they are able to make phone calls, send and receive texts messages, and so on, after the new deadline is reached.

According to Loop PNG, Digicel, which has the bulk of the customers in the country, has registered over 1.4 million subscribers. This leaves roughly 1.1 million subscribers on that network who are still to register. Digicel has been offering incentives to customers to register, such as free air time.

The other two telecommunication companies are also continuing to register their customers, and attempting to inform customers about the need to register through radio advertisements and other means.

Various countries have introduced mandatory SIM card registration. In neighbouring Indonesia, the deadline was February 28, 2018, and then over 100 million SIM cards were partially blocked, before a further deadline of April 30, 2018. In that case, registration could be done online, through text messaging, at a call centre, or in person. However, in PNG, people need to register in person as the country does not have an identification database. Mobile phone users in PNG need to visit a store or an agent and have their photograph taken as part of the registration process.

According to The National, the devastating earthquake that hit several PNG highlands provinces in February, was one reason why the Minister decided to further extend the registration deadline. The initial deadline was on January 23, but this was extended to April 30. Threatened deactivation of SIM cards on that day did not go ahead due to a court injunction, which is no longer in place.

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Amanda H A Watson

Dr. Amanda H A Watson is a Research Fellow with the Department of Pacific Affairs, Australian National University. From January 2017 to August 2019, she was part of a small team of ANU academics based in Port Moresby, teaching courses in the University of Papua New Guinea’s School of Business and Public Policy under the ANU-UPNG Partnership. Dr Watson's research focuses on mobile phone use in PNG, including strategic uses and regulatory issues. Her PhD thesis looked at the uptake and use of mobile phones during the earliest days of mobile phone adoption in PNG. Dr Watson has also taught at Divine Word University, Macquarie University, Queensland University of Technology and TAFE NSW. Her work was been published in various academic journals, as well as book chapters, blog posts and newspaper articles.

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