Despite Serious Hit on 3G Revenues, Telcos Committed to Re-Verify SIMs: CEO Telenor

The re-verification drive of 103 million SIMs will cost telecom operators billions of rupees because prime focus is to meet the deadline in stipulated time of 90-day at any cost, said Micheal Patrick Foley, CEO Telenor Pakistan while addressing the media in Karachi. He said:

“We have stopped issuance of new SIMs at retail outlets for the time being and allowed them to deal with SIM re-verification task, which is challenging for retailers as well as the telecom industry as a whole”, said Mr. Foley.

Not to mention, new SIMs are being sold at company owned care centres and franchises only.

“Telecom operators, who invested $1.8 billion on the launch of 3G/4G in Pakistan last year, will not bear the results in terms of revenues as the promoting and marketing campaign of new technology will get hurt for three to four months”, said the CEO, Telenor, Pakistan. He added that the issue of national security is more important to us (telecom companies) rather than any commercial interest.

“Telenor has invested more than $2.5 billion in Pakistan including $230 million during last one year to launch 3G services. Company is committed to invest more for long-term benefits as it sees Pakistan as a good country for business”, he said. He expects investment on 3G to plunge because all priority is being given to SIM re-verification process.

Telecom operators, who invested $1.8 billion on the launch of 3G/4G in Pakistan last year, will have to hold 3G promotions and marketing campaign for three to four months to focus on SIMs re-verification

So far 17 million SIMs have been re-verified by the telecom operators but the deadline is very tight. “I am uncertain whether we could meet it or not but we are trying our level best to reach customers through every means possible, including 3G-enabled vehicles with Biometric Verification Devices to rural areas and slums”, said Mr. Foley.

“Reaching out customers in FATA and Baluchistan will be a difficult task for us but we are trying to facilitate them through nearby available centres or moveable vehicles. However, there is likelihood that a significant number of legitimate and active SIMs will be cancelled after the deadline of April 13, 2015 and customers will have to visit to franchise or customers centre to unblock their connections.”

Despite all efforts and measures, re-verification of 103 million customers for the industry will be an arduous task with available infrastructure of 60,000 BVS machines throughout the country. “We at Telenor are planning to enhance our share in BVS enabled outlets but purchase orders and training of the staff will take a definite time, and we time is a luxury we don’t have”, said CEO Telenor.

Company is committed to invest more for long-term benefits as it sees Pakistan as a good country for business: CEO Telenor

“The gruesome incident of Peshawar’s Army Public School (APS) has left no option for telecom industry but to play its role in whatever it can do for our people. Being a corporate citizen, it is our civic responsibility to play our utmost role for national security”, CEO Telenor said. “I live in Pakistan and my kids are studying in local school and all kids need maximum protection”, he added.

“I don’t know whether this marathon drive will reduce the terrorism activities in Pakistan or not, but it will be good for the industry. The SIM re-verification process advised by government and PTA is helpful but we need to remember that nothing is perfect and biometric solution can be misused as well. The terrorism is a societal issue and its solution is different”.

“Issue of national security is more important to us (telecom companies) rather than any commercial interest”, Micheal Foley

Referring to blocking of SIMs of Afghanistan’s carriers on roaming, he said local operators have already discontinued providing roaming services to these companies in Pakistan but Afghan SIMs could be used in bordering areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan where the signals from Afghani operators are available.

At present, the number of transactions as part of verification between Telenor and NADRA has increased to 60-70% on daily basis due to the fact that NADRA is operating its system from 9am to 10 pm especially for this drive.

Operators are now giving Rs 10 per verification of SIM to NADRA allowing retailers to charge Rs 10 from customers for the same to cover their costs.

The telecom operators have already invested Rs 2.5 billion to set up SIM biometric verification system. It invested Rs. 22 billion previously on setting up SIM verification system 789 and 668.