Mobile phone operators push for SIM card registration in Indonesia

People making phone calls on a street in Jakarta June 12, 2007.

All prepaid SIM card users in Indonesia will need to register their personal information with cellular operators starting next month, otherwise they will not be given access to telecommunication services.

Cellular operators aim to be proactive in enforcing this requirement, which is part of the government's efforts to prevent the use of unregistered prepaid cards for criminal activities.

Association of Indonesian Cellular Operators (ATSI) chairman Alexander Rusli said that people buying new prepaid SIM cards - at outlets under the supervision of the cellular operators on Aug. 1 to 17 - would be obliged to register their personal information at the outlets.

Telkomsel customers can register at Grapari outlets, while XL Axiata and Indosat customers can go to their nearest XL Center or Galeri Indosat to register.

"New prepaid SIM card users can use their national identity cards, passports, driver's licenses or student cards for registration," he said.

Alexander added that the operators would from Aug. 17 onward apply the same mechanism at all cellular outlets nationwide, including those that were not directly controlled by the operators.

"It is a challenge for all operators because they have around 500,000 small outlets included in that category. However, it is not impossible," he said.

Alexander said that ATSI would then review the implementation of the regulation and would start imposing it on existing prepaid SIM card users by the end of the year.

He said that if the system was established at all outlets, existing prepaid SIM card users would have to register their complete profiles at the operators' outlets.

"We haven't decided yet how the mechanism for existing users will be implemented, but it may, for example, be an obligatory registration when they reload their phone accounts," he said.

Indonesian Telecommunications Regulatory Body (BRTI) Commissioner Riant Nugroho said existing users would be given a six-month period from September this year to register their profiles at operators' outlets.

"If they do not register during the given time period, the operators will block their numbers," he said.

Riant added that the regulation would help the government crack down on those people who used prepaid cards for criminal purposes.

"With all the profiles of prepaid SIM card users registered, the government will easily be able to identify people using phones to conduct acts of terror or other crimes," he said, adding that the regulation's implementation would in the future involve the Home Ministry.

Alexander said the regulation would also help cellular operators to obtain accurate details of their customers' profiles, and so enable them to introduce more effective business strategies to attract new customers.

He had also said previously that the regulation would reduce operators' turnover and the high level of customers switching from one operator to another.

"Lower turnover means that operators will have an exact number of loyal customers. We estimate that the industry's turnover will decline to between 7 and 8 per cent from the current level of 15 per cent once the regulation takes effect," he said.

Indonesia, the world's fourth-largest country, recorded a total 330 million cellular subscriptions last year, the largest figure in Southeast Asia, according to the latest Ericsson Mobility Report.