A total of 485,867 mobile subscribers were disconnected at the stroke of midnight, Wednesday, for failure to register their SIM cards in an exercise that kicked off in February this year.Statistics from the Rwanda Utilities and Regulatory Authority (Rura) show that 6,110,138 SIM cards were registered, representing 92.6 per cent of the total mobile subscription base in the country.

The six-month campaign is a prerequisite to regional integration under the East Africa Communications Organisation (EACO), aimed at curbing crimes committed through the use of cell phones.Starting on February 4th 2013, all pre-paid mobile phone subscribers were required to register their simcards by July 31st

There is a glimmer of hope, however, for those with unregistered SIM cards, according to telecoms service providers.Telecom firms told The New Times that registration is still open to those who have been disconnected from making or receiving calls.

“Those that have been disconnected are simply barred from using the SIM cards and can neither receive nor send data. They will instantly be reactivated once they register,” Yvonne Makolo, the MTN Rwanda chief marketing officer, said.

Makolo, however, warned that this window period would last 90 days, after which the unregistered SIM cards will be deactivated and removed from the network.

Pierre Kayitana, Tigo’s public relations and events manager, said the process had gone smoothly and commended the company’s clients for complying with the law.Tigo received the highest ratio of SIM cards registered, representing 96 per cent of its 1.9 million subscribers.

Airtel saw 94 per cent of its 953,949 clients registered, while the largest telecom provider, MTN, received 90 per cent of 3.6 million SIM card registrations.

On deadline day, Wednesday, thousands of mobile subscribers with unregistered SIM cards swarmed their service providers to avoid the looming disconnections.

Tanzania completed the resgistration exercise last month and switched off over 650,000 unregistered cards.

In January, this year, more than 2.4 million unregistered SIM cards were disconnected by Kenya’s four mobile phone operators Safaricom, Airtel, Orange and Yu Mobile.This This means that in East Africa, It’s only Rwanda Kenya and Tanzania  that have successfully completed this exercise

In Uganda however, The simcard registration deadline  which was meant to last for a year from 1st March 2012 to  1st March 2013 was extended to August 31st, this follows the failure for majority of the mobile users to register their simcards which forced the Uganda Communications Commission(UCC) to extend the deadline, time will tell if after 31st August 2013, UCC will switch of any remaining un-registred simcards.

Information from New Times was used in this article.