YAOUNDE—Queues of customers have lengthened outside MTN Cameroon service centres and outposts around the country, after the company suspended possibly tens of thousands of phone lines owned by unidentified customers.
A company spokesperson declined to disclose the number of lines that have been disconnected, saying it was an ongoing process. But our correspondents around the country said hundreds were turning up daily, some before opening hours, at MTN centres in both the main cities and small towns, after realising they can neither make nor receive calls.
MTN confirmed the mass disconnections in a statement Monday. The company said it took the decision to comply with new regulations that require mobile telephone companies to create and keep up a database of phone line or SIM card owners from now on.
It came after a two-and-half-month drive to identify and re-identify subscriber. During that time, MTN says it fortified its routine operations with over 100 identification centers, 2000 fixed identification agents and 500 mobile identification agents.
“As recommended by the government, subscribers who did not confirm the identification have been suspended,” MTN said.
Over the past weeks, the company sent text messages to disconnected customers urging them to “save” their numbers. It offered incentives in the form of airtime bonuses. In its statement, MTN said disconnected numbers will be re-established with 24 hours of identification. It is unclear how long subscribers can wait before definitely losing their phone numbers.
The identification operation, which involves all phone line owners irrespective of their carrier, has been linked to the need to pre-empt crime and terrorism.
“MTN is a responsible corporate citizen conscious of the risks associated with unregistered SIMs, especially at this time of heightened insecurity,” said CEO Philisiwe Sibiya.