Ultimate Options with Pros and Cons for Resolving Unverified SIMs!

As you may know, the issue of unverified SIMs has stormed the telecom market during past few weeks.

Government wants telcos to re-verify each and every SIM (that’s more than 140 million SIMs in total) with-in 28 days, while telcos are lobbying to avoid the hassle and contend that reverification of all the SIMs won’t decrease terrorism and crimes.

Below are all possible options with their pros and cons for our readers to evaluate what is best for the telecom market and the nation.

But before that, please keep following hard facts in mind:

  • 100% SIM re-verification won’t decrease terrorism or crimes as proved by a research that studied 15 markets globally (Link).
  • Terrorists who are determined to remain anonymous will use other means to obtain active SIM cards or simply buy them from abroad and roam on their own countries’ networks.
  • Each biometric verification costs telcos Rs. 23, which is paid to NADRA. They can bear this cost if verification is natural, i.e. for new SIM, SIM replace or MNP as it will mean business to them. However, if done for just the sake of reverification, it will mean added operating costs.

Re-verifying All SIMs in 28 Days

Assuming that telcos are imposed with government’s early decision of reverifying each and every SIM in 28 days!

Pros

  • Government’s blame (though without any weight) on telcos for spreading terrorism through unverified SIMs will be over
  • Each active SIM will have an owner
  • Having an owner mean that we will have a responsible individual available for any remote bomb/crime/illegal call/illegal exchanges / extortion/terrorism or any thing that originates through a cellular SIM

Cons

  • Exercise is almost impossible to get completed due to time constraints.
  • No other cons discussed, as this is simply not possible. Its like building a 3000 feet high building in a week.

Re-verifying All SIMs in 6, 12 or 18 Months

A middle-way is established for re-verification and a deadline is set for customers to get their SIMs re-verified. All SIMs without re-verification after the deadline are blocked.

Pros

  • Government’s blame (though without any weight) on telcos for spreading terrorism through unverified SIMs will be over
  • Each active SIM will have an owner
  • Having an owner mean that we will have a responsible individual available for any remote bomb/crime/illegal call/illegal exchanges/ extortion/terrorism or any thing that originates through a cellular SIM
  • Mobile phone users will have enough time to get their SIMs verified before the deadline is over
  • Telcos will have enough time to streamline their resources to get the exercise completed
  • During this extended deadline, a good chunk of SIMs will get re-verified through natural process (usual SIM replacements, MNPs, new buyouts).

Cons

  • Massive awareness campaign needed
  • Operators will have to invest in re-verification
    • Rs. 23 per biometric verification paid to NADRA
    • Rs. 15 or so per re-verification to retailers
    • Other operating management for resource management
  • At least 40% of subscriptions (45-50 million SIMs) might get wiped out, putting a serious hit on telcos.
  • Cellular subscribers in far-flung areas and those outside Pakistani (with active SIMs on roaming) may face issues
  • Government may argue that they don’t have enough time wait for re-verification of SIMs.
  • Unverified SIMs can be used during this for usual crimes (wrong calls as an example)

Re-verifying SIMs through Natural Process

As per market sources, since the start of Biometric Verification System on August 1st, 2014, all cellular companies have verified some 17 million SIMs till date (Link).

There are people who think that if BVS is allowed to work as it is, majority of SIMs will get verified in next 3 years without any further input or dedicated re-verification drive.

These 17 million biometric verified SIMs include new sales, SIM replacements and MNP requests that were entertained only after biometric verification of customer.

Not to mention, when a customer verifies his/her identity for a single SIM issuance, he is automatically verified for other SIMs on the same CNIC.

Additionally, 0.1 million new subscribers are being added every day through BVS, which means 3 million subscribers are naturally verified through biometric verification system every month.

After a certain time, say 3 years when majority of SIMs are naturally reverified, authorities can set a deadline to compel the remaining unverified customers to get themselves verified or their SIMs will get blocked. With less than few percent subscriptions remaining, it will be lot easier to manage the re-verification.

Pros

  • Government’s goal of cent percent re-verification will be achieved without any extra-input from telcos
  • Telcos won’t have to invest anything, instead their usual business cycle will do the job
  • Each active SIM will have an owner
  • Having an owner mean that we will have a responsible individual available for any remote bomb/crime/illegal call/illegal exchanges/ extortion/terrorism or any thing that originates through a cellular SIM
  • Majority of customers (90%) will get their SIMs re-verified with their usual routines without putting any extra effort

Cons

  • Government may argue that they don’t have enough time to wait for re-verification of SIMs.
  • Unverified SIMs can be used during this time period for usual crimes (wrong calls as an example)

Not Re-verifying SIMs at All (Totally Abandoning BVS)

This might seem like a bizarre thought, but there are few people who think of this as an ultimate solution. According to them (don’t ask their names), if SIMs are allowed without registration or anything, that will only help flourish the usage of cellular technology.

When it will be widely used, you can tap cellular technology to hunt down terrorists and culprits.

They give example of Osama Bin Laden, whose messenger Abu Ahmed Al-Kuwaiti was tracked in Peshawar through a cellular call and ultimately led the Americans to Osamaa Bin Laden himself.

This school of though advocate that instead of investing billions on Biometric System and hurting telcos’ business, government should invest this money into establishing a monitoring system (exactly like CIA) to crack-down any terror or criminal activity.

And also, since we know that 100% reverification of SIMs won’t stop terrorism or crimes, let’s not go through the hassle at all.

Pros

  • Registered SIMs help in investigations but even the unregistered SIMs help LEA’s in a way through call records which can still be retrieved. Dozens of inquiries are given to the intelligence agencies to curb terrorist related activities.
  • Openness in market for anyone to everyone to use cellular SIMs
  • A heaven like model for telcos
  • Easy for operators with lesser OPEX for maintaining sales
  • More chances for hunting down terrorists and criminals through cellular tracking
  • Easy to purchase new SIMs, replace SIMs
  • Customers will be able to have any number of SIMs, for their personal use, to be used in cars, devices, dongles or anywhere they want.

Cons

  • Illegal calls (wrong calls) / illegal exchanges or other similar things that can be avoided with registered SIMs will be hard to stop

Conclusion

These are apparently all the possible options relating to dealing with un-verified SIMs. All options have their respective pros and cons. It is now up to the policy makes to deliberate all the preferences, possibilities and their consequences.

I am concluding this post with one request: Please don’t let a common politician (without any technological background or policy making experience) to make these critical decisions. Please let the people with authoritative knowledge and experience do the job.

We don’t want a commoner (who has not achieved anything other than winning an election) to decide the fate of multi-billion dollar industry.

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