At midnight tonight, 2-million South African SIM cards will no longer function. ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK and SEAN BACHER explain why and what to do.
Midnight tonight ‚ 30 June 2011 ‚ will see the deactivation off of all SIM cards numbers that have not been registered in terms of the Regulation of Interception of Communication Act (RICA). At last count, 24 hours ago, that amounted to around 2.7-million SIM cards or cellphone numbers. In just a week, however, that had come down by close to a million, from 3.6-million, as South Africans rushed to register. With the deadline looming, it is likely to drop to below two million.
That is less than 5% of all active SIM cards in South Africa, and far better than the worst case scenario of 10% originally anticipated. Chances are that only about 1% of contract customers will find numbers not working, and around 3% of pre-paid users.
The biggest impact among contract customers will be felt by users of 3G data cards or modems, which often are bought separately from cellphone contracts. Among pre-paid users, churn is so high ‚ 40% a year ‚ that it is likely that a high proportion of the numbers that will be deactivated were already out of use anyway.
In short, from a registration point of view, RICA has been a massive success. It remains to be seen whether it will be equally successful for law enforcement, however. That is the main point of RICA, but law enforcement agencies will need court orders to listen in on any communications, or to trace calls. That means they will need reasonable grounds to suspect a crime has been committed or is likely to be committed by the user of that number. It further means they are unlikely to be able to do so live in action so to speak, during the commission of a crime.
The structures that will be required to ensure efficiency and speed in this process ‚ crucial to its effectiveness ‚ also need to be put in place and given adequate resources. Little has been said about that.
How to check your RICA status
How do you know if you are RICA ready?
There are a few quick and easy ways to check your status. In many cases, you don’t even have to leave your computer or phone and stand in long queues to find out.
If you use Vodacom as your service provider, you can check via one of the following four steps:
¬∑ By visiting your local Vodacom store where they will be able to tell you on the spot ‚ this is beneficial as you can then RICA yourself there and then if you’re not ‚legal‚ .
¬∑ You can send @vodacom111 a Tweet on Twitter
¬∑ By phoning 111 on a Vodacom phone or 082 111 from any other phone.
¬∑ Finally, the easiest way is by simply sending a free SMS with the word ‚RICA’ to 31050.
MTN subscribers can check on their RICA status by visiting the MTN website (www.mtn.co.za) and navigating to the Services menu, under which they will find the RICA option. Click on this and type in your cellular number.
MTN subscribers without access to a computer can contact the MTN RICA centre on 083 123 7422.
Cell C customers can call the Cell C contact centre on 140 from a Cell C number or 084 140 from a non-Cell C number. They can also walk into their nearest Cell C outlet to find out their status.
You can also dial *133*7422# and you’ll get your RICA status in return.
Finally, Cell C customers can SMS the word RICA to 14579.
Virgin Mobile customers can dial *124# from their Virgin Mobile cellphones. Thereafter, they will receive an SMS on their RICA status.
8.ta users don’t need to RICA their SIM cards, as the service provider automatically did this when they were signed up. That’s the advantage of launching a network once the RICA process was firmly under way. However, just to be sure, you can pop into your nearest 8ta store to make sure. You will find a list of stores on 8.ta’s website.
If, after all this, you are still disconnected, most of the networks have given an assurance that they will keep numbers on their systems for six months, and will reactivate them in that time if they are RICAd. However, penalties may be applied.
You have just a few hours to avoid that possibility.
* You can follow Arthur Goldstuck on Twitter on @art2gee, Sean Bacher on @seanbacher, and Gadget on @gadgetza.