Pakistan Telecommunication Authority chairman says: No move to phase out prepaid connections
By: Zulqernain Tahir
LAHORE: Contrary to the statement of Interior Minister Rehman Malik that prepaid mobile connections will be phased out gradually, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority says no such proposal is under consideration and being a regulatory body it is more concerned about the implementation of existing regulations regarding issuance of SIMs.
“There has been no proposal to phase out the prepaid connections under consideration. The interior ministry neither asked us about this nor gave any specific directions regarding the issuance of SIMs,” PTA chairman Farooq Awan told Dawn.
Mr Awan said the interior ministry had security related concerns which were addressed by getting the mobile phone service suspended in different parts of the country (for several hours during Eid). “If the interior ministry has any proposal in this regard it is supposed to discuss it with the IT ministry to be put forward to the PTA for new regulations,” he said.
The PTA chairman further said the authority was more concerned that the SIMs was not sold without authentication. “It is an important issue and we are going to take the mobile phone operators onboard in this regard.” He also made it clear that be it prepaid or postpaid connection, the legal requirement to get the both were same. “What is required is the implementation of the existing regulations regarding issuance of SIMs so that no connection is issued against fake identity,” Mr Awan said. The PTA may direct the five operators – Mobilink, Ufone, Telenor, Zong and Warid – to take measures for the verification of post and prepaid mobile connections of their subscribers within specified time period through “SIM Information System”.
A couple of years ago, the PTA had launched this campaign advising the mobile phone subscribers to visit customer service centers of the mobile operators concerned to get their SIMs data corrected through SIM Information System 668 if there was any discrepancy in their antecedents. The PTA also wants to streamline the process of SIMs sale along roadsides and at franchises.
After the exercise, the PTA blocked over three million SIMs issued on fake identities and also seven million inactive connections.
In a meeting on Friday the operators took strong exception to Rehman Malik’s statement and declared it uncalled for. “The statement has created panic in the industry and it appears that it might have been given purposely to target the telecom industry,” an official of a leading operator told this correspondent. He said in the meeting the operators had also decided to see the PTA chairman in this regard.
The operators meanwhile have also failed to appoint a spokesperson to communicate the industry’s viewpoint over such issues to the media.