If you were one of tens of thousands of people whose phone line was scheduled to go dead yesterday, consider yourself lucky. There has been a reprieve. Federal authorities and service providers have delayed until January the requirement that phone users re-register Sim cards or have their accounts frozen.
The postponement was certainly welcome - there had been far too much uncertainty over the regulations that were announced in June. The task now for du, Etisalat and regulatory authorities is to better communicate with the public so the next deadline can be met, and people have a positive incentive to comply with the requirement. Otherwise, mobile phone users will only reluctantly comply to keep their service from being shut off, wait until the last possible moment to register, and clog up the bureaucracy so the entire system stalls.
That was the experience learnt from the Emirates ID registration process. When the initial staggered deadlines were announced, the rush of applicants overwhelmed registration offices, and some well-intentioned applicants spent a mind-numbing 12 hours queuing for the card. When the deadlines were postponed - and the public better informed about the rights and responsibilities associated with the ID - the process eased to the point now where nearly every citizen and resident is the proud possessor of an Emirates ID card.
The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority announced the mobile phone re-registration plan - "My Number, My Identity" - more than three months ago, but many people are still in the dark about the purpose. After all, customers have to present identification documents to get a mobile phone in the first place. But there are several possible reasons why Sim cards might need to be re-registered: phone-related scams have frequently been reported; phones sometimes change hands after the initial purchase; and this will be an opportunity to link Sim cards to the new ID card.
As we have noted in these pages before, the problem isn't the regulation itself, but how it is implemented. A clear explanation of the registration process, and the best way to go about it, would be most welcome. Can mobile-phone users register their Sims now, and beat the madding crowds? It's still unclear.
Mobile phones are a ubiquitous part of daily life. An interruption in service, based on a miscommunication, would be a serious inconvenience and in some cases could incur considerable financial losses. People have already provided their identification details to purchase a Sim card - they will be perfectly willing to do so again, as long as they know how.