KARACHI: As part of the government’s National Action Plan against terrorism, Cellular Mobile Operators (CMOs) have processed more than two-thirds of the 103 million subscriber identity module (SIM) cards using the Biometric Verification System (BVS) by March 8, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) revealed on Tuesday.
In the wake of the December 16 terrorist attack in Peshawar – which claimed over 140 lives, mostly students – the government had directed CMOs to re-verify their pre-BVS user base (103 million) through the technology by April 13.
Since the launch of the campaign, 68.7 million SIMs have been verified against 53 million CNICs, the telecom regulator said in a press release. The PTA further stated that 10.9 million SIMs were disowned by users for blocking during the period under review – the number includes 8.2 million SIMs that were blocked already.
The telecom industry initially expressed reservations on the tight deadline, saying they have about 60,000 devices to verify 103 million SIMs in 90 days, which translates to almost one million SIMs a day or 664 SIMs per minute. The deadline for consumers with two or more SIMs was set at February 26 and for those with two or less SIMs was set at April 13.
However, the numbers reflect that the industry has pushed hard to achieve the targets set by due time, as it has processed more than two-thirds of the required number in a couple of months.
According to ICT experts, the last 20% to 30% of the users are always difficult to verify in such an exercise. They also predicted that the process would slow down towards the end and a lot of SIMs would be blocked during that time.
A careful account of the latest statistics reveals that the combined total of SIMs that were blocked or disowned by customers for blocking during last two months is close to 20 million as of March 8.
With the BVS drive to continue for another month, the overall cellular subscriber base is likely to reduce at the end of the exercise.
The country had a total of 136.4 million cellular subscriptions at the end of January 2015 – down from a peak of 140 million as of July 2014. With 8.2 million SIMs blocked already, the number has already come down to 128.2 million. It may be added that once the deadline is past, all unverified SIMs will be cancelled, bringing down the overall number.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 11th, 2015.