Latest stats given so far by Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (as per end of July 2008) and those which are advertised through media campaigns by Cellular companies say that there are 90 million SIMs in the country.
We all know that NADRA is given the responsibility to verify each SIM of Pakistan, which in opinion of many telecom analysts is not capable of doing so.
- NADRA itself has only 60 millions of registered users in its database (As of July 2008)
- Cellular SIMs’ sale started way before NADRA came into existence
- First few years of NADRA were a total failure (because they have reached this 60 million registered ID card figure now, it was defiantly not so in earlier years) but SIMs were being sold even then
So there are two possibilities now
- Situation 1: Either there are not more than 60 million customers in Pakistan (or even less, due to the fact that many of NADRA ID card holders, especially women and those in far flung areas don’t own mobile phones yet)
- Situation 2: Or NADRA can not verify all SIMs
Okay, now we have reached 2 possible situation here, let’s discuss both in detail and what steps should be taken in case of both situations.
I am assuming that Cellular Companies and the regulator (PTA) are familiar with the actual situation, that is either we have only 60 million or less customers or NADRA can’t verify SIMS.
Situation 1: Pakistan has less than 60 million Customers
This is relatively a bad news for telecom sector of Pakistan, in terms of investment and the tempo that the industry has achieved. Let’s check out why Telcos keep on insisting that they have subscriber’s strength that they never bear
- To increase their stock value
- To Minimize ARPU, that’s called Average Revenue per User. (Higher ARPU is always welcomed, but in case of Pakistan, cellular companies have (maybe) tried to keep the ARPU low. It is like this, if you are earning lot of revenue but you show higher expenses (more subscribers, more operating expenses) to neutralize your revenues (low ARPU) and eventually escaping taxes
- And not an important point, but it comes into consideration while keeping in view the performance of individual managers who kept their bosses (investors) happy
Resolution of Situation 1
In case, situation 1 is true, then Pakistan Telecommunication Authority must come into act and play positively so that Cellular companies are not able to steal taxes and help our economy grow, as this is the only sector that can make some big money for our country.
In case situation 1 is true then we may expect new figures in Telco ads such as Call Rs 1 per Minute to 18 million Mobilink friends and family numbers etc.
Situation 2: NADRA is not capable of verifying SIMs
In case, situation 2 is true, then we must not wait any more and we must come up with a better and immediate solution than of what we are practicing now. Stop the current process of SIM verification from NARDA and stop wasting time.
What option we are left if Situation 2 is true?
Alas we have not many options in order to tackle situation 2, but only one that is to re-register each single SIM. There should be given a deadline of like 6 or 9 months, during which each cellular subscriber will have to re-register his/her SIM before deadline. And remaining all numbers should be blocked after this ONE DEADLINE.
I am not kidding, this was done in Bangladesh and they have managed to re-register almost all of their cellular customers. This is even better options for cellular companies to reduce their verification cost (Cellular companies used to pay Rs. 20 earlier on and now Rs. 5 for verification of each SIM)
What if both Situations are true?
Then it’s the worst situation (and there are good possibilities of this) that we have got it, we may need to cater for each situation equally and separately
Most of the people (from PTA, cellular companies, financial experts, and Telecom analysts) I spoke with for the preparation of this report were well aware of the fact that the current mechanism for SIM verification is not going to work.
So who is going to prove that millions of SIMs (8 million that’s what Mr. Talha claims) were really blocked? or they are the only un-registered SIMs? I have spoken to CSRs of Mobilink, Ufone and Telenor and they say they never came across any customer who said that his/her SIM was blocked. So there are good chances that cellular companies blocked already inactive numbers. We all know that cellular companies have not provided the details of 5.4 blocked SIMs (which were blocked couple of months ago).
Dr. Yaseen, our newly appointed Chairman PTA should put more pressure on Telecom companies for more transprancy.
Whatever the case is, we must debug this issue now. As situation is still not out of our hands, and we must pay proper attention in order to leave hassle free environment to our coming generations.