Tough roaming rules for foreign visitors

Foreign travellers visiting SA would have to register their cellphones and personal details with a local service provider before they can enjoy international roaming on their cellphones, a parliamentary committee heard yesterday.

The measures come as part of the Regulation of Interception of Communication Amendment Bill, which is being discussed by the justice committee. The bill seeks to help in the fight against organised crime and the use of cellphones to commit crimes. It will require that the personal details of every user of cellphone services are recorded.

While it was always understood that the details of anyone — whether foreign or local — buying a cellphone service in SA would have to be provided, committee chairwoman Fatima Chohan gave the clearest indication yet that visitors would have to register their phones in SA before they could enjoy roaming.

The bill, which has been out of the spotlight for some months, returned to the committee yesterday with a number of options for inclusion in the legislation.

One clause in the bill says that a person who is not a South African citizen would have to supply full names, passport number and an address before they could be enabled for roaming by a local service provider.

The measures have given rise to fears of lengthy queues at points of entry into SA and of costly administrative delays for cellphone companies, as international visitors provide a significant portion of their revenue.

Attention has also been drawn to the problems that would occur when masses of foreign visitors arrive for the 2010 Fifa World Cup and have to queue and register their phones before leaving the international airports.

Chohan, in response to queries from Democratic Alliance MP Sheila Camerer and African National Congress MP Luwellyn Landers, said: “Everyone who uses roaming in SA must register, otherwise there is no point to this legislation.”

Camerer had asked what would happen to those arrivals with new technology that automatically allowed roaming once they switched on their phones after disembarking. Asked if now it meant that a visitor would have to register before roaming was enabled, Chohan said emphatically that registration would be a requirement for roaming in SA.

Representatives of cellphone companies, observing the committee proceedings, told reporters outside the meeting the measures would be problematic for their operations. They expected delays at airports.

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Tough roaming rules for foreign visitors