Telecom regulator proposes online sim card registration

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN) - The Lao Telecommunication Regulatory Authority is developing an application for use as a possible option to speed up sim card registration. 

Officials from the Authority said yesterday they have completed the app and are now trialling it. This process will ensure that the app will function properly when it is introduced.

“We cannot say when the app will be introduced and be used officially,” an official from the Authority told Vientiane Times yesterday, adding that the relevant sectors must work on this issue. The Lao Telecommunication Regulatory Authority, which functions as an organisation under the Post and Telecommunications Ministry, presented the application at a recent post and telecoms sector meeting.

The move comes after the government instructed stakeholders to speed up sim card registration. At present, there are 6.5 million currently registered sim cards, which accounts for only 72 percent of the total number of active phone sim cards.

According to the presentation, which is now accessible on the Post and Telecommunications website, the application will allow cell phone users to register their sim card online.

In the past, sim card registration meant owners had to present in person at the retail outlets of their service provider. Many people have suggested that because this takes time people are less likely to register their sim.

According to the presentation, the application can be downloaded and installed. With the app, cell phone users will have an easy pathway for online registration of their sim card.

Also using the app, cell phone users can take photos of their ID card, driver’s licence, family registration book and residence certificate and send them to the Lao Telecommunication Regulatory Authority, one of the processes required to complete sim card registration.

Once sim card owners have submitted all their documents through the app, they will receive notification that their sim cards have been registered. After that, they can use the card to make telephone calls and connect to the internet.

The Authority believes that the application makes it much easier for people to register their sim card. Presently, however, the app is compatible with Android phones only.

Many observers have noted that unregistered sim cards make Laos vulnerable to internet crimes and attack. In some countries, criminals use sim cards to detonate bombs while others use the technology to spread fake news and disrupt civil society.

The government is aware that unregistered sim cards can pose challenges for the authorities, not least of which is maintaining national security and having recourse for any mobile phone related crimes committed. 

Telecom operators have been growing in number in recent years and are now actively competing for market share, so services are being offered at increasingly more affordable rates. However, the price of internet services in Laos remains high compared to neighbouring countries.

A study by the World Bank says that lowering internet service fees will boost e-commerce and trade. Many others also point out that sim card registration is a necessary component of online trading. 



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