The Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) has threatened to suspend Airtel Malawi's operating licence after accusing the company of failure to deactivate about 1 million unregistered SIM cards.
The regulator had stipulated 30 September 2018 as the deadline for SIM registration and ordered operators to immediately deactivate all unregistered SIM cards.
Macra director for consumer affairs Thoko Chimbe said Airtel Malawi did not adhere to the deadline and would also face a charge of unfair business conduct having continued to generate revenue from unregistered numbers.
Chimbe said the Macra board would meet to discuss the violations and punitive measures, including the possibility of licence suspension.
According to Chimbe, Airtel Malawi had informed the regulator that it would not be able to register all the SIM cards before deadline, but would do so by 9 October 2018.
However, Macra said the operator "has defied lawful orders" and contravened the country's Communications Act.
"This is the first time that a service provider is making such a serious violation. We are waiting to listen to what they have to say in defence and the gravity of the offence will determine the kind of punishment that will apply," Chimbe added.
Airtel Malawi communications and CSR manager Nora Chavula said the operator had not yet provided Macra with a deactivation report and was still in the process of validating every registration that has been done so far by retailers and agents at the back office.
She explained that the validation process took longer to complete because of the backlog that developed due to large customer turnout in the final days prior to deadline.
"We have started the process of deactivating unregistered SIM cards. We will share the deactivation report on the same as soon as the exercise is completed."