Mozambique’s telecommunications industry is poised for significant growth and transformation following the Communications Regulatory Authority’s (INCM) rollout of new regulations governing subscriber registration and device identification. The new rules, developed in consultation with telecom operators, internet service providers and pay-TV companies, will require all telecom service subscribers to register their personal details and communication devices within the next six months.

The new regulations signal the government’s ambition to formalize and strengthen the telecom sector, bringing it in line with international standards on user registration and data privacy. Mandatory SIM card and device registration will help curb criminal activities like phone theft, fraud and terrorism which rely on anonymous communication. It will give regulators and operators better insights into the profiles and needs of different customer segments, enabling targeted infrastructure investments and service innovations.

However, the success of the new rules depends on effective implementation and enforcement considering Mozambique’s high mobile penetration rate of over 70% but low fixed broadband access. Thorough subscriber verification and documentation requires time, money and skills that operators and regulators in developing countries often lack. Mozambique can learn from Zimbabwe’s hasty implementation of a similar policy in 2011 which disrupted network services and inconvenienced many legitimate subscribers. INCM must ensure operators get enough time and support to register all existing subscribers to avoid service disruptions.

The new regulations also expand INCM’s oversight role in an industry it already tightly controls. Further tightening of controls could curb private sector investments in networks and services. INCM needs to strike a balance between regulation and liberalization. One approach is to ease restrictions on new entrants to foster competition, especially in the fixed broadband segment. More competitors will increase innovation, reduce consumer prices and incentivize incumbents like Movitel, Vodacom and MTM to improve their offerings.

With increased government support, investments in backbone infrastructure and competitiveness in the telecom sector, Mozambique’s telecom industry is poised to drive digital inclusion, e-commerce and ICT innovation. Mandatory subscriber registration is a step towards unlocking the industry’s potential. But its success depends on patient, collaborative and farsighted implementation of the policy by all stakeholders involved