|Chinese mobile phone users asked to register(12/02/05)|
BEIJING, Dec. 2 -- China's 200 million cell-phone owners who use prepaid cards will soon have to register with their telecom provider or face a cutoff in service.
The new requirement is part of China's efforts to verify the owner of every phone number in the country as it tries to stem telephonic fraud and unauthorized transmissions, including pornographic or politically charged content.
The general plans for the new procedure were announced yesterday by a Ministry of Information Industry official interviewed on sina.com. Implementation is expected to begin by the end of the year, and phone customers will probably have six months after that to turn in their paperwork.
"It's unfair if we require only new mobile phone users to register and ignore existing customers," said Chen Yuping, a senior official at the ministry's China Academy of Telecommunication Research.
"More important, the registration mechanism loses its effectiveness."
Customers now have two choices when they buy a mobile phone in China. They can be billed for service at the end of each month, in which case they must register with the phone company by showing an identity card. Of they can simply buy prepaid phone cards almost anywhere on the street.
The new rule will require the latter to show identification when they buy the device that activates their phone: the subscriber identity module, or SIM card for short.
At the end of October, China Mobile's prepaid customers numbered 177 million among 238.7 million total subscribers.
China Unicom, the smaller of the country's major mobile providers, did not reveal figures, but industry officials believe the number of prepaid service customers totals at least 200 million in China.
"Current prepaid users will be required to go to the mobile operators' outlets with their identity cards to register," Chen said.
Shanghai Mobile and Shanghai Unicom are already ahead of the country in demanding more accountability from their customers. They started requiring prepaid card customers to register their names starting September 1.
By requiring registration from all cell phone users, China says it can do a better job eliminating short-message-system advertising spam, financial frauds, pornography and improper political commentary.