2010 RICA conundrum

Cellular operators do not seem to be clear on what information the estimated 450 000 tourists entering SA for next year’s soccer tournament will need to provide if they want to purchase prepaid SIM cards.

The Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication-Related Information Act (RICA) requires people with SIM cards to register these, providing proof of residence and an identification document such as a passport or an ID book, ITWeb reports.

Bowman Gilfillan associate Carmen Cupido says: “It seems as though tourists will be required to give proof of address in their country of origin.”

The amended Act, which was published in January, defines an address as the place “where the person usually resides”, or “where the person is employed”, or “where the business of the person is situated”.

Fifa does not seem concerned about the legislation. A spokesman says: “Registration of SIM cards is a standard procedure in most countries around the world.”

Zolisa Masiza, MTN’s group executive for regulatory issues, says tourists can use their home SIM cards on a roaming basis. However, those purchasing new cards while in SA for the games “will be required to provide their full names, surname, original passport document and residential address in their home country to a RICA officer or agent”.

Masiza points out that – after the games when the tourists leave – the SIM cards they have purchased will have to be discarded responsibly. “The obligation is on the foreign visitor to destroy their SIM card once they have left the country,” he says.

The visitor will have to notify MTN if the card is handed over to someone else, and registration will then happen all over again. Africa’s largest cellular company is not sure how many prepaid SIMs will be sold for the games, but will embark on a marketing campaign closer to the time.

Differing opinions

Vodacom SA MD Shameel Joosub says tourists can provide registration officers with proof of the address where they will be staying while in SA.

He also notes that tourists can do with the prepaid card “as they wish”. “They can be encouraged to destroy the SIM card and assist in lowering crime in SA,” Joosub adds. Vodacom could also not predict how many cards would be sold during the World Cup.

Cell C spokesman Sean van der Westhuizen says the company has been “working on processes to minimise the impact [of RICA] on these customers”, but did not provide specifics as to what the cellular operator is doing.

He concurs with Vodacom that tourists can provide proof of where they are staying for the tournament. They will also need to “present their passport to a RICA officer to verify and capture the details accordingly,” Van der Westhuizen adds.
“Once customers leave the country, they will be required to terminate their services with the relevant network… Processes to ensure compliance have already been implemented. These processes will be unique to each network,” he notes.

Not an issue

Frost & Sullivan senior ICT industry analyst Lindsey Mc Donald says she does not see RICA being an impediment to tourists coming into the country.
“There is no way that it’s going to be an issue for 2010…. There is no way that we are going to inconvenience tourists.”

She notes that the Act allows 18 months for all cards to be registered by the networks, and it does not seem to be fully applied now when prepaid SIMs are purchased.

A recent ITWeb investigation revealed cards can be purchased, and activated, without registration. In addition, many retail employees are not aware of the exact requirements of the Act.

The Department of Communications did not respond to requests for comment.

Pic: Mobile phone