Unverified SIMs and Head Scratching Decisions of Pakistani Government!

The issue of un-verified SIMs is still being debated between telecom companies and Interior Ministry and things are still on the roll without any conclusion.

While we have clearly proven that blaming telecom companies for causing terrorism or even crimes is simply a nonsense, interior ministry is still standing still on its day one stance.

Just in case if you are not familiar with the background, Pakistani telcos are asked by the government to re-verify its entire prepaid and postpaid subscribers with biometric verification of customers in 28 days.

While we understand that re-verification of SIMs is important for various reasons but one must not associate unverified SIMs with terrorism or crimes in the country.

Also Read: Blaming Telecom Companies for Terrorism is Madness!

Rectification of SIMs in 28 days is Not Possible!

We also know that cellular firms are ready to re-verify SIMs — based on their responsibility towards society for having registered and verified customers — the un-due pressure from Interior Ministry for re-verifying SIMs in 28 days or a certain duration is beyond comprehension.

Here are few reasons that you can’t re-verify 140 million customers in 28 days:

  • Telecom companies won’t be able to verify more than more than just 2.4 million SIMs if every franchise and service centre verifies one customer in one second, round the clock, seven days a week for 28 days.
  • If retailers are asked to re-verify (which they won’t unless there’s an incentive because they aren’t company employees and won’t work back-to-back unless they are paid) then they have to re-verify 2500 SIMs every minute to complete re-verification in 28 days.
  • With Biometric Verification System installed at limited retailers, there are many far-flung areas which aren’t in access to such retailers who have BVS solution deployed with them.
  • Pakistanis (as a nation) aren’t pro-active individuals. They took years to get their mandatory CNICs registered and it seems almost impossible for them to get to the service centres, franchises or to retailers to re-verify their SIMs with-in one month.

If someone is still pressurizing telcos to get each and every SIM re-verified through BVS in a matter of 28 days then that gentleman should be taken out of Interior Ministry and should be sent straight to a hospital for mental checkup.

Government’s Guarantee

The story doesn’t end here.

The real concern of telecom operators is that they need a guarantee from government that this total re-verification exercise will be the last one in their business cycles. They don’t want to repeat what has happened before with 668, 789 and other similar plans that government made for the verification of SIMs.

For those who don’t know, telecom operators invested Rs. 24 billion (yup, that’s in billions) with-in last year to get their service centres, franchises and retailers equipped with Biometric Verification System devices.

If you want some more details then each such BVS device costs USD 350 and telcos had to spend Rs. 24 billion on these devices to get BVS solution functional at all franchises, service centres and retail outlets.

After this investment, re-verification process will cost as well. For example there is labour cost, maintenance, utility and similar expenses that are associated with such pile of work. On top of it, telcos have to pay Rs. 23 to NADRA for each biometric verification.

As mentioned above, retailers won’t re-verify customers for free, hence at least Rs. 15 per re-verification should be allotted to retailers to lure them to work on re-verification of customers.

In-short, other than operational cost, at least Rs. 40 per customer (or Rs. 5 billion in total) is what telcos will have to bear for re-verification of their entire customer-base.

This can’t be done with a chance that telcos will be asked again after few months for deployment of a new system for verification of SIMs.

Role of PTA and IT Ministry 

These are serious issues and there must be through deliberation done before reaching conclusions. We are dealing with foreign investors who have invested billions in our country, we just can’t put them under the control of people with no technological background.

Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, which is reportedly mum on the matter, should play its role. PTA is probably the only government body that understand technical issues and they must come between Interior Ministry and Telecom industry to bridge both sides.

Anusha Rehman has a responsibility here too. She should help her peers to understand technical and theoretical limitations and let them know that re-verification of SIMs in 28 days is neither possible, nor it will help stop terrorism.

Yes, she can tell Interior Ministry that cellular firms are ready to re-verify SIMs and they must be given realistic deadlines.

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

  • This is a decade old issue between Telcos and GOP. The only thing that holding back Telcos on the matter is conflict of interest. The unrealistic sale targets, subscribers numbers had lead them into this kayos. This 140 Million subs figures can come down by 50% if true scrutiny is done. I know many people who have SIMs from all operators and most of them is not registered under their name. This has to end now and in a way this will eventually help Telcos. Tough but right decision like the way we took Terrorist head on.

  • Sale of SIMs is one part and activation of SIM
    is another part. The other way to avoid Cellular Operators conflict of interest
    is to focus on the activation part. GOP with the assistance of NADRA may
    consider to deploy an IT system with suitable application to grant activation
    code to activate a SIM on a request by user. Examples, Car Manufactures sell
    the cars but GOP registers it. An Arm dealer sells a pistol but GOP grant a
    license. There are many similar examples which can help us to resolve this
    issue permanently.

  • The concerned officials of GOP should think before they make a decision. In my opinion the un-verified sims should be verified but a realistic time period and approach should be provided to Telcos.

  • ufone did a very simple trick to verify. they just sent some sms to reply with your CNIC number. If your number is correct than fine. otherwise you have to go to nearest ufone center and give your true credentials. Though its not a foolproof but still an easy and workable approach at least it will filter so many unverified sims.

    • Not doable. My family has over 25 SIMs. My SIM is registered on my father’s name. My mother’s SIM is registered on my name, My father’s SIM is registered on my uncle’s name, my grand mother’s SIM is registered on my name, my sister’s SIM is registered on my cousin’s name, and half of us don’t remember for sure, who’s name is who’s SIM on.

      • Just send an SMS on short code “667” from number, you will receive reply with information of person who owns this number on their network.
        Name & CNIC

  • I think best way would be by Calling Customers and asked their credentials using NaDra Auntie.
    It is very easy approach. The 1 who are failed, un ke sim bund aur they must do it using biometric system.

  • How innocent are telecos, when they were distributing unverified sims, dont they know repercussions at that time.

    • This is not as simple as u think. Telcos are not direct seller/ distributers. They contract local investers to be franchisee and purchase their stocks ( sim. Load. Cards etc) to public and retailers. Franchisees are mostly involved in bulk sim sales for voip or any other illegal purposes. Now companies and Gop has put verification system to strengthen the process otherwise it was like eating hot cake to use pre-activated sim few years back

  • Mr. writer you are right in your view but I think too much bend toward telcos. These companies are for profit purpose like every business and they issued sim cards like (Andheri main Shopper) and forget their CSR at that time.
    I think there is only one way out that every user must verify there numbers by each year, for example today I go and verify my all numbers issued on my NIC and same day next year is the last date to re verify my numbers by visiting customer center, if not with in 30 days the company should block my un verified numbers.
    For new connections I think bio-metric system is good and repeated after one year.
    This system is implemented in many countries and they verify each year same like you renew your license/ health card/ NTN etc

      • those unverified sims must be block by the telcos.they know the details and only they can blok those sims.

    • @ Dr. Aamir Liaquat Hussain – Sir you are right but why govt did not think before and wasted the resources on 789 & other verification. One thing more; more than 30% CNIC holders do not have proper record of their fingers prints in Nadra so will it be possible to get it verify. You must be from a large city but how telcos will entertain the people who are uneducated and do not know about SMS, they are also respectable customer. Please do not be specific, think about whole country.

      • first of all its telcos duty and obligation for proper verification system then you blame government.
        do you think in all over world telcos don’t implement systems by themselves rather enforced to do something by government.
        government is not an expert for such things but telcos never come up with such things.
        blaming directly to nadra is not good thing. first ask telcos to do their job then ask nadra and government.
        although its not helful in terrorism to that extent but proper system must be there.

  • Simply Government is thinking how to make more money, Even Nadra do not have proper thumb impression of approx. 30-35% CNIC holders who got the CNIC before 2005 (by filling manual form).

    • suppose your finger prints are not there in nadra.you get sim you verify from nadra and no record found.then you go nadra to get your prints and then get your sim.
      this way issues will resolved.
      think positive

  • “each such BVS device costs USD 350”? How? I mean at the end of the day its just a thumb verification device that you can get easily from market at much lower prices

  • Hard but true fact is that suppose you have verified all of the unverified SIMS (Which is not possible without the help of Aladdin’s Jinny) still how can you uproot the will of that person who has made his/her decision for doing wrong. problem is that terrorism is not only the issue of this age there are other bad habits in our society as well such as Vulgarism through mobile, ransom money etc. these all are also associated with mobile you can’t fix any one of the aforesaid issues only by verifying SIMS. This idea is truly shit, it raises question mark on the caliper of advisers (Bureaucracy) who are giving advises to Ministry (obviously Ministry is not in the hands of such people who have Functional Brains).

  • Well this is is rubbish companies cant verify their sims in mass.Agreed they cannot but then they need to have intelligent brains who can develop and map checks that can beep if some thing fishy is going on.Rather than laying emphasis on more sales if same effort is kept forward for sim authentication it surely can be minimized.Not sure the top paid executives are either buzy in saving their jobs or starting to think as a Pakistani because bottom line is if terrorism stays there it wont even leave the businesses also.

  • seems like NADRA is covertly sponsoring the terrorists so that they can “EENTHH” 23 rps one more time from telecom companies for “RE-VERIFICATION” here….. sad situation for investors. real sad.

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