Despite strict measures introduced by the National Telecommunications Regulation Agency (NTRA), mobile line sellers have been able to find a ploy that allows trading in unofficial lines, known as “American Lines”.
The NTRA recently introduced tight controls on the selling of mobile phone lines to prevent trading in unknown source lines, and suspended unregistered mobile lines, thereby decreasing the number of lines from over 100m to 93.2m last September.
Mahmoud Radwan, one of the authorised distributors of Etisalat Misr, said the NTRA banned selling mobile lines outside outlets affiliated to the three mobile operators – Vodafone, Mobinil, and Etisalat. Mobile line contracts require a copy of the national ID and a utility bill. The NTRA set these requirements to guarantee that users’ data is recorded.
Radwan said in spite of these controls, unofficial lines, known in the market as “American Lines”, are still flourishing. Traders rely on reselling unused lines and activating them using the data of previous owners.
“The mobile companies reissue SIM cards with unused lines before the end of the legal period, after which the line is suspended, which is three months. They are being resold, and work automatically depending on the previous data of the original owner,” Radwan explained.
Mohamed El-Wakeel, one of the authorised distributors of Mobinil, agreed with Radwan’s opinion, asserting that traders, in cooperation with distribution managers in mobile companies, still sell the “American Lines” in spite of NTRA’s controls.
El-Wakeel explained that traders seek the highest number of sales to obtain financial incentives, known in the market as “compensations”. These incentives are granted for every line the trader activates to join the service, in addition to the quarterly commissions taken when the user recharges credit. The companies also benefit by increasing their market share and their number of users.
He added that some traders activate more than one line using the data of a single client, given that the NTRA’s controls allow clients to register up to 10 lines, according to El-Wakeel.
The NTRA began enforcing strict controls last year to prevent trading in lines with unknown sources. It required the selling of mobile lines directly through outlets affiliated to service operators only, limiting the number of lines to 10 lines for every client.