Subscribers in Rwanda are allowed to register a maximum three SIM cards to local networks against their national ID card and operators have deactivated extra lines as per a directive issued by the country's industry regulator, the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA).
RURA justified the move saying it was necessary to limit "the exploitation of subscribers' digital identity."
While there is no confirmation of the total number of deactivated lines, initial estimates pegged the expected amount of affected SIM cards as exceeding 900,000.
However, ongoing monitoring showed that about 20% of affected lines were duly authenticated and were not deactivated before 31 January 2019.
MTN and AirtelTigo have responded to subscribers' enquiries about their deactivated SIM cards.
According to AirtelTigo, subscribers who want to reactivate their deactivated lines must go to support centres to authenticate their ID.
James Musinguzi, Director Technology Development at RURA, said the process was going smoothly. But some subscribers complained to ITWeb Africa saying that their service was deactivated – despite having only one active line.
Musinguzi said: "Previously, a SIM card was something we use to communicate. Today it is not only an address, it is also a banking account. We want to make subscribers know their digital identity is out there inside the SIM cards. We are giving them an opportunity to know how many SIM cards are registered to your ID. If we don't tackle it, in the future it can encourage digital identity theft."
According to telco market share figures released by RURA, at the end of December 2018, MTN Rwanda recorded 48% of the market share in mobile subscriptions whereas Airtel/Tigo Rwanda had 52%.