sim

Title says it all. Communications experts in Ghana say that it took just five months for Ghana to lose over $900,000 because of the activities of SIM box operators. We remember that only 2 months ago, the Police Commissioner said that they lost $33 million to SIM boxing between August 2015 and January 2016.

A few of you may be wondering what a SIM box is. It’s a device used as part of a VoIP gateway installation that houses multiple SIM cards from different operators. Translation: you can use it to route international calls over the internet and terminate them through local SIM cards. This way, you create the impression that those calls were generated locally, and so you only pay local rates for them.

Things begin to get interesting when you begin to do this commercially. It means you can price lower than most actual telcos and still make a huge chunk per call. And you’d be doing this while causing congestion for genuine local traffic.

In reaction to these activities, the Ghanaian parliament has passed the “Electronic Communications (Amendment) Bill, 2016” into law. The most noteworthy part of it is that it makes it a criminal offence to be in possession of unregistered SIM cards (which are the only kind you can use for SIM boxing/banking).

What’s with everyone and unregistered SIM cards? MTN is still receiving a beating in Nigeria for not deactivating 5.1 million unregistered SIM cards. In light of this information, you can’t help but understand how things can go wrong if unsavoury parties are in possession of these SIMs.

SIM boxing is not a new practice though; I read that it’s been going on in Ghana since before October 2010. That’s almost 6 years, and in that time, the authorities have only been able to catch around 17 suspects.

Ghana’s Chamber of Telecommunications (their version of NCC) has said that the problem would be solved if telcos lowered their international call rates, to make SIM box fraud unattractive to criminals.

“It costs 19 cents a minute to make a call into Ghana”, said Kwaku Sakyi Addo, the Chamber CEO, “…so there’s incentive because the network operators are obliged to charge not less than 19 cents per minute for a call coming into Ghana. If you don’t unearth and eliminate that incentive for it, 10 years from now, we will be having these press conferences bout would not get to the bottom of it”.

Hat tip to PCTechMag for the original tip.

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