Curbs on SIM sale in place despite end of verification

Industry says revenues falling due to the restriction

Adeel Ayoub November 04, 2015
Industry says revenues falling due to the restriction. PHOTO: ONLINE

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court and the telecom regulator imposed a ban on the sale of more than five Sims against one computerised national identity card (CNIC) by all five cellular mobile operators after the court took a suo motu notice in the case of missing persons.

The cellphone operators believe this decision has caused a massive cut in their sales and revenues but they accepted it in the larger national interest and to comply with the order.

An industry source pointed out that the ban continued even after the next generation mobile services (3G and 4G) auction and without any distinction between a voice+data Sim and a data Sim, resulting in less interest on the part of potential investors and expectations attached with the auction were never met.

In April 2015 following instructions from the Ministry of Information Technology, the cellular operators carried out an extensive biometric re-verification drive, with the belief that it would allow the citizens and industry to gain back their fundamental right to freedom of trade, business and profession. Paragraph 8(d) of the Standard Operating Procedure for Sim sale and activation through the biometric verification dated November 20, 2013 says restriction on the number of Sims against one CNIC will be lifted once the deployment of biometric verification system is completed.

The verification has been carried out, but despite the lapse of months the ban is still to be lifted.

This comes despite the fact that the Supreme Court had clearly stated in its judgment dated November 29, 2013 that the directions provided were based on recommendations of the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) and law enforcement agencies, and that the order provided for interim measures before a permanent solution may be decided upon and successfully reached.

The biometric verification was not intended to cover data Sims, which cannot receive an inbound or make an outbound call. However, such verification has also been applied to them as well.

Another industry source said with the launch of 3G and 4G services, the market was moving towards a multi-device environment where each individual might have multiple devices. With the introduction of data Sims, laptops, tablets, dongles/wingles, etc, all operate on 3G/4G connectivity.

“By blocking Sim sales, we are stopping this potential growth, which is not only hurting our revenues but also causing losses to the national exchequer,” he said. It is the need of the hour that either the restriction on the number of Sims is lifted or data Sims are segregated from voice Sims to ensure easy access to data Sims by classifying them as a separate product to avail true benefits of the latest technology.

The writer is a freelance contributor and telecom expert

Published in The Express Tribune, November 4th, 2015.

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