x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

'Nightmare' queues in UAE malls ahead of Sim card deadline

Hundreds of mobile phone users spent hours queuing in malls across the country to re-register their etisalat and du Sim cards or face being cut off.

Etisalat customers in the Mall of the Emirates queue to re-register their Sim cards.
Etisalat customers in the Mall of the Emirates queue to re-register their Sim cards.

Hundreds of mobile-phone users queued for hours in shopping centres across the country yesterday ahead of today’s deadline to re-register their Sim cards.

Etisalat and du customers who have received a text message telling them to register could have services partly cut off today.

Already, 1.3 million Etisalat customers have been cut off for not following the procedure in the first two rounds of re-registration.

Re-registration is designed to help protect users from confidentiality infringement or identity theft.

Those who fail to submit their details by the deadline will have outgoing calls blocked.

Three months later, their phones will be cut off altogether if they have not followed procedure.

Queues began forming early at the Etisalat stand in Abu Dhabi’s Al Wahda Mall.

Among those queuing was Miroslav Hloupy, from the Czech Republic, who waited three hours before finally completing his registration about 2.30pm.

“It was a nightmare,” Mr Hloupy said. “We stood here for hours and there were only three staff members at the stall. I don’t understand it.

“There is absolutely no reason why this could not be done online. I could have just sent digital copies of my ID to them.”

Also irate was Munis Thakur, from India, who by mid-afternoon had been waiting for more than an hour in a line of about 30 people.

“It is not good because I have to work at 4.00. I think I will be here for at least another hour,” Mr Thakur said.

A sales representative at du’s store in the mall said it had more customers than usual and was preparing for many more as the day wore on.

In Dubai, many faced the same problems. A Twitter user posted that there was a “queue of around 200 folks outside Etisalat in Khaleej Centre”.

By 6.30pm queues continued to build at Al Wahda, as more people rushed to submit their details with their phone company.

But lines in Abu Dhabi Mall were still fairly small by the time most in the city finished their working day.

Prem Mhatri received his SMS from Etisalat and it only took him 15 minutes to complete the registration.

“It was not really a problem,” Mr Mhatri said after completing the process. “It is to protect our security, so I suppose it is a good thing.”

Ayman El Dessouky, chief sales officer for Etisalat, said “registration of their numbers is a crucial step towards preventing the global threat of identity theft and misuse.

“Etisalat has extended all necessary support to the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority’s My Number, My Identity campaign by introducing new registration channels and adding new partners to ease the process for customers.”

In Dubai, queues in front of the Etisalat outlet at Mirdif City Centre continued to grow until late into the evening, with some people waiting more than half an hour to get a queue token and application form.

“I have been waiting for at least 30 minutes just to get my number,” said Hajar Mubarak, an operations manager from India.
“I had to go through the last-minute rush because I was only notified a couple of weeks back that I had to register my Sim, despite the fact that I gave all my details about two months ago when I replaced my old Sim card.

“I will not wait more than another half an hour. If I am not registered, I will just drop this number.”

People queued to get their token number in two lines, one for men and another for women.

“I have been waiting for an hour and I have 40 people ahead of me,” said Kevin Bao, a designer from China.

The situation was much the same for Majed Eisa, a waiter from Syria who was not convinced until recently that Etisalat would cut off the service to those phones that were not re-registered.

“I only came because one of my friends recently got his phone service disconnected, so I realised that they were serious,” he said. “I have waited for more than 45 minutes and it looks like the wait will go for at least another hour.”

The scene was very different at the du outlet at the same mall, with the few people being served immediately at the service counters.

Those who have not yet received the text message are still able to register their Sim cards, but are not subject to the deadline.

Customers must provide a valid passport, residence visa or Emirates or GCC identity card to complete the process, at branches of du or Etisalat, or authorised sellers.

The TRA’s My Number, My Identity campaign was launched last summer, and is expected to run until the end of the year, after six rounds of re-registrations.

ksinclair@thenational.ae