Exclusive: Telcos Agree to Deploy Biometric Solution for SIM Verification

new-mobile-simIn the best interest of nation, all five cellular operators have principally agreed to deploy the biometric verification solution for authenticating users’ data before selling them the SIMs, we have confirmed with sources.

Being socially responsible corporate citizens and organizations all mobile operators CEO’s agreed on the decision unanimously, told us a source who is directly aware of the development.

Source said that keeping in view the national security requirements, cellular operators have agreed upon the installation of biometric verification solution, as in the past all Mobile Operators have always complied with all the directives from PTA and Government of Pakistan.

This time again, mobile phone companies are willing to do whatever it takes to get the unregistered SIMs off the market.

However, their concern is that system should be fool-proof and they must not be asked again for another system for verification of SIMs after few months.

Cellular operators are of the view that the installation of a complete biometric equipment at every point of sale will cost between Rs. 35 to 40 thousand per outlet. Considering that all operators have over 250,000 sales’ outlets through out the country, they will deploy biometric verification solution for at least 70-75,000 outlets.

This whole equation is going to cost cellular companies around Rs. 3 billion, still they are ready to invest this money into the system to enhance the national security environment.

However, operators say, this must be an end to the unregistered SIMs and someone from the government must guarantee that mobile phone operators will not be indicted again for unregistered SIMs . Not unlike before when government, PTA, Interior Ministry took countless measures that cost operators billions of rupees without any concrete solution.

For readers’ reference, here are the steps taken by the government and regulator during last few years for curbing illegal and unregistered SIMs:

  • 2007:
    • Change from active to inactive SIMs;
    • Verification process starts in 2007-08
    • Offline verification of all SIMs data thru NADRA
  • 2009
  • 2010
    • 668 ph-II
  • 2011
    • 668 ph-III
  • Mar 2012
    • Pre-sales process added for 789 CCs
    • 668 ph-IV re-verification process

Despite all these steps and blockade of millions of SIMs, the issue of unregistered and illegal SIMs remain there unresolved. Telcos think that concerned authorities should take their time in deciding the methodology and procedures of the biometric system so that the process is made cent percent fool proof.

In the last 3-4 years, the mobile operators – for the implementation of above mentioned measures — spent almost Rs. 2 Billion for SIM verification processes and charges that NADRA deducts from cellular companies.

It maybe recalled that NADRA currently charges Rs. 13 for each SIM verification from cellular companies, while charges for SIM verification after biometric system is likely to double at Rs. 28 per verification.

Keeping in view the market dynamics, mobile operators urged NADRA to reduce its charges that it deducts for SIM verification for the cause of National Security which is of dire need in the current situation.

Mobile operators further urged that all the stakeholders should contribute for the deployment of biometric system, as this step has been taken for the purpose of national security and so they should be allowed a subsidy on the import of the equipment.

Our sources at Ministry of Information Technology said that government is aligned to assist mobile operators in all possible ways. He said that proposal for subsidizing the deployment of biometric solution is being worked-out and funding might be channelized through available sources to the ministry.

Analysts suggest that deployment of fool-proof biometric system has now become essential. They said that government will have to monitor the system regularly to make sure that it is not exploited by the fraudsters.

As per market sources, the deployment of biometric system may take around an year.

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

  • Rs. 28/verification, amounting to millions, all going to to NADRA’s kitty. Isn’t it a vested interest? if the purpose is national security, shouldn’t NADRA and PTA and other authorities share this cost? also, as far as i know NADRA’s own data is not complete and up to date. how will this system be fool-proof? apart from that, all of NADRA’s finger print data was not acquired through biometric system and millions of prints are scans of ink think impressions which will never match with actual finger prints. how does NADRA and authorities aim to address that. seems like a security loophole to me. yet another issue: who’s going to supply 75,000 machines? is there even such a production capacity to meet the deadlines? aren’t the costs going to go up given such drastic demand? i bet the entire US and Europe doesn’t have 75,000 machines.

    • O Yet another Intelligent being ;)
      Do you have any other so called FOOL PROOF plan, if so plz go ahead and share with us. WE R LISTENING

  • SIM sales should be verified. No arguments there. But service providers cannot be now blamed alone as the situation is also a result of poor regulation coupled with one past governments target to show increased teledensity/cellular penetration through number of subscribers.

    Secondly, the focus only on SIM sales reeks of something that was in news after DI Khan incident. Someone commented that probably there should be no coverage inside a jail. That’s kind of funny thinking that Police won’t / can’t stop people from slipping in mobile phones and yet have the guts to ask for coverage to be blocked from jails. Wouldn’t things be easier if everyone starts doing their bit, service providers at SIM sales and then police and other law enforcement agencies. Our legal intercepts are good enough to track the mobile phone being used in a crime. So, getting to know the details through NADRA is rather a step backwards apparently.

    Third and last point, all steps are great only if PTA can then observe the market and take appropriate steps in case of any violations by a service provider. At least one of the service providers is selling free of cost, pre-activated SIMs. If this continues, PTA & government is only punishing other players through making them spend billions for PTA’s own inaction & incompetency.

  • FINALLY A SIGH OF RELIEF. Seriously, The security situation is such that even if they came up with a plan that would “STOP/BLOCK ALL THE ISSUED SIMS AND THEN RE-ISSUE THEM AFTER PERSONAL VERIFICATION”
    It would have been acceptable.

  • How will this improve security exactly? I can still give my sim away or lose it. CCTV might be a better option.

  • Consumers pay taxes – expenses for verification should be borne by the government. Case example being census – we were not required to pay for the forms, the salaries etc. etc.

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