Telcos Asked to Start Rolling Out Biometric System for SIM Verification


Cellular companies are now directed to start rolling out Biometric system for SIM verifications immediately, sources told ProPakistani.

As per revised schedule, cellular mobile companies are asked to complete the deployment of biometric verification system — starting with companies-owned customer services centres and franchises — by December 1st, 2013 in Karachi and across Pakistan by December 20th, 2013.

This was decided during a high-level meeting, chaired by Secretary Interior, last week.

According to the information we have got, cellular companies are now given the option of purchasing the equipment – used for biometric verification of customers — from the vendor of their choice.

However, there are only two vendors in Pakistan offering the biometric verification solution, one of which is owned by son of a former Chairman NADRA.

Sources told ProPakistani that equipment for biometric verification – to be installed at Service Centres and Franchises – is going to cost around $90. This solution will include a thumb scanner and will come without computer/tablet and internet connectivity. Since all service centres and franchises are already equipped with computers and internet connectivity, hence this simple scanner will do the job.

The thumb impression of subscriber will be matched with NADRA’s database in real-time to make sure that CNIC holder is indeed the person he/she is claiming to be. After verification of thumb impression and the customer, a SIM will be issued to the purchaser.

The other kind of biometric equipment, that will come with scanner, computer/tablet terminal and internet connectivity – to be deployed on retail outlets – will cost around $350 to $400.

It merits mentioning here that cellular companies will collectively work-out to equip retail outlets with biometric solution, as retailers usually sell SIMs of almost every operator. It is heard that USF will assist cellular companies in subsidizing the equipment for biometric verification of customers.

Moreover, 789 SIM activation system – in practice since January 2009 for activation of new SIMs – will be closed for ever.

Telecom industry of Pakistan is long struggling with un-registered and un-verified SIMs. All regulatory and industry efforts made so far have proven insufficient to get rid of unregistered SIMs from the market.

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 unresolved. Telcos think that concerned authorities should have taken their time in deciding the methodology and procedures of the biometric system so that the process is made cent percent fool proof.

Analysts anticipate that biometric verification system will also fail unless complete cellular base, including existing subscribers, is not verified again.

Despite apparent flaws, cellular companies agreed to deploy biometric system amid increasing pressure from law-enforcement agencies, Interior Ministry, PTA and the courts.

It won’t be out of place to mention here that Peshawar High Court went to its length and issued arrest orders of CEOs of telecom companies for not eliminating unregistered SIMs. Resultantly, one CEO of a telecom company had to operate from Thailand for over a week.

Expect more details about biometric system for customer verification here on this website in next couple of weeks.

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