Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Crackdown on phone retailers amid fears of national security threat

Preparations are at an advance stage as the new Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority (BOCRA) aims to crackdown on retail outlets that import and sell cellular phones amid fears that the gadgets were a threat to national security, pose danger to networks and consumer health.
In   the latest development, BOCRA is courting retailers to conform to the standards by selling and distributing communication gadgets that fall under the stipulated requirement by BOCRRA.

BOCCRA has roped in the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), which regulates South African communications,to monitor and test  communications equipment that are distributed and sold to consumers.

The crackdown comes after BOCCRA consulted cell phone retailers and other companies that distribute the communication equipment.   

 BOCCRA Acting Head of Communications and Regulations, Jericho Keletso,  stated that they are coming on board to control the mushrooming gadgets that are a health hazard to the public, interfere with networks and that are tantamount to threat to national security.

 He explained that the communication gadgets were not a problem in the past when the  cellular networks like Orange and Mascom were the ones which were distributing and selling  cell phones.

┬á“They used to distribute cell phones that were conforming to their networks that they were using but currently there is mushrooming retail stores that are selling cell phones. So the then Botswana Telecommunication Authority could not go out to tell them to conform,” said Keletso.

 He emphasized that there is a new trend where cell phones and other communications are  not conforming to the standards.   He said that currently cellphones are sold to consumers without leaflets  showing  where such phones come from.

Keletso stated that  this excise to control the cellular equipment that pose danger to other cellular networks is meant to make the distributor conform to the standards.   
┬á“Let’s clean and conform and the distributers should also make sure that they conform. We have planned that on August 19 we will actively enforce the law. Those who will refuse to act in accordance with the law will face penalties as stipulated in the act,” he stated.

 It is also feared that in the absence of monitoring communication gadgets, there is a likelihood that a  vast infrastructure that has been built could be a drawback since there is a greater possibility that the gadgets  could damage the same infrastructure that the government has invested in.

Keletso stated that it would be risky for the country to lose such infrastructure due to this communication equipment that is not monitored and controlled.  

On ICASA, he said that they have equipment that will test whether the communication equipment conforms to the standards.

Kelesto says their collaboration with ICASA is very important since they were using the same standard as Southern Africa  states.   He said that they will be working with Botswana Unified Revenue Service which will monitor these gadgets at the border post.   

He feared that some of the equipment was very advanced and could bypass and communicate with other networks outside, which borders on issues of national security.


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