Afghan SIMs cannot be active in Charsadda: PTA officials
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) officials believe that terrorists who attacked the Bacha Khan University on Wednesday were either using SIMs issued by Pakistani cellular companies or a satellite phone as there is no possibility of using Afghan SIMs in Charsadda. “It is 100% confirmed and has been re-verified that roaming of Afghan SIMs in Pakistani areas is not possible at all as tower-sharing agreements of Afghan cellular companies with Pakistani cellular companies were ‘effectively terminated’ some one year ago. It is true that Afghan SIMs could be active in Pakistani side of Pak-Afghan border in a maximum range of 10 to 30 kilometre because the towers of Afghan cellular companies have been erected very near to the border on Afghan side,” an official said. Officials added that towers in a GSM system have a maximum range of 30 km which decreases as the number of users on the network in that tower area increases. This range can be decreased to 3 Km in case of huge numbers of users on the network in that area but can never increase beyond the maximum range.
Officials say that in terrains with hilly areas and building even this maximum range is out of question and in Pak-Afghan border area terrains the maximum range could be only 25 km in case of minimum active SIMs in the area. The minimum distance between Charsadda and the nearest point of Pak-Afghan border is more than 50 km, so an Afghan SIM cannot be made active in any case in any area of Charsadda.
The officials say that if terrorists who attacked Bacha Khan University were receiving calls on mobile phones they must be using SIMs issued by Pakistani companies or were having satellite phones.
Officials said the PTA has directed all Pakistani cellular companies to erect their towers at least 20 km inside of Pak-Afghan border. “However, Afghan companies have erected their towers very near to Pak-Afghan border on Afghan side because of which Afghan SIMs can be made active in some areas of tribal belt or the areas which fall in maximum range of a cellular tower on Pakistani side,” an official said, adding that it is a matter of great concern in present circumstances as majority of terrorism incidents in Pakistan were orchestrated in Afghanistan.
It is important to mention here that The News had highlighted in detail the massive misuse of Afghan SIMs by terrorists and kidnappers in different Pakistani cities much before December 2014 attack on Army Public School (APS), Peshawar, but no institution was ready to fix the problem because of some unknown reasons.
However, after attack on APS and announcement of NAP, the PTA asked Pakistani companies to terminate tower-sharing agreements with Afghan companies.