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


  • Fakhre Alam

    or simply buy them from abroad and roam on their own countries’ networks.

    i don’t agree. just don’t allow roaming without activating the SIMS at outlets in airports or franchises and hence their data will be recorded with PTA.

    • eyescreaman

      That is not how roaming works, operators have pre negotiated contracts all over the world which allows them roaming without any effort on the subscribers part.

      • Fakhre Alam

        my man, we are talking exceptional cases here. due to security concerns this step is cry of the day.

    • aamir7

      I just hope that Ch. Nisar isn’t advised such a thing. This will be a total chaos for international roamers, as well as for Pakistani operators.

      • Fakhre Alam

        i do agree but we already have a bad image so i don’t think this another (sounds stupid) step would make any difference. all i am saying is just to record the passport/visa data of the international roamers.

        • Aamir

          What about the roamers from Afghanistan who dont required any Passport or Visa to visit Pakistan? (illegal movement) and by the way most calls traped in such activites are from sims of Afghan origin.

          • Fakhre Alam

            Well brother. read my comment carefully. if any foreigner do not have passport he simply can not activate his Sim for roaming

      • Arsalan Shah

        Anything can happen in Mumlikat e Khudad. Who thought that Mobile Networks can be turned off on Ashura, and other dates.. when that can happen, anything can happen! Welcome back to the stone age.

        There will soon be a time when the government would want to demolish roads – as terrorists use them to travel, cut off water supplies – as terrorists drink water, and terminate mobile phone services for good as terrorists use it to communicate. Mark my words, we’ll soon go back to a non-3G era, maybe no 2G even with the current policies of the government of pakistan.

  • zain

    these steps initiated by our agencies are destroying Pakistan telecom sector
    our agencies and security forces should come up with good intelligence rather lame excuses

  • Guest

    In a statement, all telecom companies said: “Time to leave Pakistan.”

  • Adnan Ahmed

    I want to cast my vote for,”Not Re-verifying SIMs at All (Totally Abandoning BVS)”

    Anyone else to vote for this?

    I’ve some other reasons for voting this as well as those pros mentioned above for example is this the last step by government to bug telcos? I read that telcos have invested billions in following pta guidelines one by one i.e 668 procedure, than 2 step verification, than biometric, and now whole re-verification, is there anyone who can assure no further step from government side to telcos?

    further, anyone care to elaborate why are they blaming telcos at all?

    when government can blame telcos for terrorism I am confident they can ask you not to come out of your home as you may get murdered, or perhaps they can run a campaign that do not send your children to school as the school can be targeted and attacked by peoples having mobile sims!

    • Nabeel

      I am with you here.

  • Adnan Ahmed

    In previous article, I fell in love with the writers statement,”that gentleman should be taken out of Interior Ministry and should be sent straight to a hospital for mental checkup.”

    I wish someone at government level take action.additionally I wish to treat the author with either a pizza or american steak for the great statement. :-D

  • Concerned

    In Saudia Arab you have to present your NIC to get your mobile balance recharged. The same can be done here.

  • Ahmed Habib

    Simply,
    1. Call each unverified number
    2. Ask for details (mother name etc)
    3. If successful, mark the number verified OR in other case mark the number as pending_ownership to allow user enough time to go to SC to manage, if the owner do not visit the SC; block the number forever after 3 days.

    Each call may take 1-5 minutes but these can be done simultenously to many customers at a time. This method is also cost savy as well as time.

    If the user is terrorist he will never visit SC, if its legit user, he will rush to SC in case could not verify on call.

    • JahanZaib Yousaf

      v much agree and easy solution

  • Arsalan Shah

    I think BVS is stupid. I vote for “Not Re-verifying SIMs at All (Totally Abandoning BVS)” I just have a thought regarding BVS – if there’s a terrorist who’s just about to suicide himself, will it matter if the SIM’s on his name? I mean isn’t human life bigger than just a stupid SIM card? If the person doesn’t care about his life, why would he care if the SIM is registered on his name? If Law Enforcing Agencies find out later on that the person whose name it was registered on was a suicide bomber, what can they do? Nothing special at all.