Unregistered SIMs, Still a Dark Spot

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It is proven that a single un-registered or illegally obtained SIM can turn out to be real test for a subscriber and/or for the cellular company.

We have mentioned before that all the procedures adopted by PTA, till date, for eliminating the illegal SIMs in the market, were not 100 percent successful.

For instance, PTA asked Telecom companies to block SIMs while comparing ownership data with NADRA’s records. Millions of SIMs were blocked but there remained millions other un-registered SIMs working.

PTA then thought of delivering SIMs at postal addresses, but the idea was turned down by cellular companies as the procedure was neither viable nor workable.

Then there came the idea of issuance of in-active SIMs, which subscribers could activate after purchase though 789 facility. We had pointed out long ago to plan beyond 789 – and now it is evident that even the 789 system was not able to serve as the master plan of eliminating all illegal SIMs.

Then there came 668 SIM Information System. Millions of un-registered SIMs were again blocked, but not all. It was later found that 668 system was not fool proof, and it could display wrong information because of no real time synchronization with cellular companies’ data.

What Options do we have now?

Unfortunately not many but we have only two options

  • One way is to let the system keep rolling – and we may end up witnessing more penalties from PTA to cellular companies
  • While there is another way, for which we are already too late. Give a Deadline of, say six months or one year, and make all cellular users of the country to re-register their numbers. After the deadline, let the registered numbers work and block all other mobile numbers, once for good.

Here is the reason, why re-registration is necessary: There were 90 million SIMs before 789 system, and we are not sure how many of them were legal or otherwise illegal. Also the performance of 789 system is not hidden from us now.

Having said this, SIM activation system must bear zero tolerance for chance of any error. 789 agents must ask multiple questions, not only the mother name, but education, cell number, place of birth, or any other information in multiple format that is not given on CNIC.

Government can support the cellular companies for setting up resources required for re-registrations of all numbers.

This fund can be alternatively collected by penalizing those PTA officers who are responsible for the situation. PTA can’t simply run away by imposing hefty fines, instead it should look into its own character for allowing cellular companies to sell illegal SIMs in first place. It is clearly authority’s duty to keep an eye on sales, but unfortunately PTA was busy shouting the SIM numbers as its victory at ITU and GSMA.

I am not advocating cellular companies, in fact Ufone itself admitted the violation of 789 SOP directives, but what i am trying to say is that PTA is equally responsible for the situation. Cellular companies and PTA must join hands to dig out the ultimate solution.

Tech reporter with over 10 years of experience, founder of ProPakistani.PK