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South Africa mulls reining in roaming

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The South African justice committee is considering making foreign travellers register their name, passport number, and address with a local provider before being allowed to use the local GSM services.

The requirement is part of the "Regulation of Interception of Communication Amendment Bill". The bill also requires anyone buying a phone in South Africa to prove who they are and where they live.

Most countries make some attempt to find out who you are when you buy a phone; with different levels of legislation, enforcement, and effect.

In the UK, customers routinely hand over their personal details, but is still possible, and legal, to refuse. Most of Europe requires buyers to produce some form of ID, though there is little attempt to control the resale of connections.

Gabriel Solomon, director of Government and Regulatory Affairs at the GSMA, described the move as "unprecedented and impractical", adding that it would make the South African government a laughing stock come the 2010 Fifa World Cup when the world's journalists can't call home.

Local operators in South Africa are also complaining that long queues will develop as visitors try to register. But it seems more likely that fans on a short visit just won't bother, and thus be unable to incur the exorbitant roaming fees those operators depend on for a significant portion of their revenue. ®

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