Clarity needed on mobile phone rule

The new rules requiring mobile-phone users to re-register their Sim cards needs more explanation.

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When changes to the requirements for residential visa renewals were announced earlier this month, there was widespread confusion, followed by a clarification from the authorities. At the time, we wrote on these pages that the problem was not with the law itself, but with the process of communication about what was required.

The same can now be said about the Telecomunications and Regulatory Authority's new "My Number, My Identity" scheme. Initial reaction to the announcement made on Wednesday was similar to that for the visa rules. People were confused about what was required of them.

As we reported yesterday, all mobile phone users will have to re-register their Sim cards. The TRA said this was necessary because of the increase in the number of court cases where a subscriber had given away a Sim card, which had led to serious legal and financial consequences.

Etisalat and du have confirmed that arrangements are being put in place for subscribers to submit application forms and identification documents at locations across the country starting on July 17.

Etisalat said this would be possible at any of 100 retail outlets, with its chief executive, Saleh Al Abdooli, adding that the company had "fully harnessed its resources to complete this process successfully". He said the campaign was "particularly important for subscribers, because it prevents any unauthorised or criminal usage of Sim cards and helps in curbing legal or social violations".

An Etisalat spokesman added that the process of re-registration would take only 10 minutes. Anybody who has dealt with different forms of the bureaucracy might see that as an overly optimistic assessment, but no one should begrudge spending a small amount of time to fill in a form if it is in our individual and collective interests to do so.

As with the visa announcement, though, we don't yet have all the details. We know when the process will begin, but we don't know when the deadline will be. This is particularly important given that many people will be away next month because of Ramadan and the holiday period.

Clarification on this issue would ease many concerns. Nobody wants to see the kind of confusion that led to a mad rush for ID cards in Dubai, where the deadline had to be extended because many people simply did not understand what they were required to do.