Exclusive: Telcos Agree to Deploy Biometric Solution for SIM Verification

new-mobile-simIn the best interest of nation, all five cellular operators have principally agreed to deploy the biometric verification solution for authenticating users’ data before selling them the SIMs, we have confirmed with sources.

Being socially responsible corporate citizens and organizations all mobile operators CEO’s agreed on the decision unanimously, told us a source who is directly aware of the development.

Source said that keeping in view the national security requirements, cellular operators have agreed upon the installation of biometric verification solution, as in the past all Mobile Operators have always complied with all the directives from PTA and Government of Pakistan.

This time again, mobile phone companies are willing to do whatever it takes to get the unregistered SIMs off the market.

However, their concern is that system should be fool-proof and they must not be asked again for another system for verification of SIMs after few months.

Cellular operators are of the view that the installation of a complete biometric equipment at every point of sale will cost between Rs. 35 to 40 thousand per outlet. Considering that all operators have over 250,000 sales’ outlets through out the country, they will deploy biometric verification solution for at least 70-75,000 outlets.

This whole equation is going to cost cellular companies around Rs. 3 billion, still they are ready to invest this money into the system to enhance the national security environment.

However, operators say, this must be an end to the unregistered SIMs and someone from the government must guarantee that mobile phone operators will not be indicted again for unregistered SIMs . Not unlike before when government, PTA, Interior Ministry took countless measures that cost operators billions of rupees without any concrete solution.

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

In the last 3-4 years, the mobile operators – for the implementation of above mentioned measures — spent almost Rs. 2 Billion for SIM verification processes and charges that NADRA deducts from cellular companies.

It maybe recalled that NADRA currently charges Rs. 13 for each SIM verification from cellular companies, while charges for SIM verification after biometric system is likely to double at Rs. 28 per verification.

Keeping in view the market dynamics, mobile operators urged NADRA to reduce its charges that it deducts for SIM verification for the cause of National Security which is of dire need in the current situation.

Mobile operators further urged that all the stakeholders should contribute for the deployment of biometric system, as this step has been taken for the purpose of national security and so they should be allowed a subsidy on the import of the equipment.

Our sources at Ministry of Information Technology said that government is aligned to assist mobile operators in all possible ways. He said that proposal for subsidizing the deployment of biometric solution is being worked-out and funding might be channelized through available sources to the ministry.

Analysts suggest that deployment of fool-proof biometric system has now become essential. They said that government will have to monitor the system regularly to make sure that it is not exploited by the fraudsters.

As per market sources, the deployment of biometric system may take around an year.

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