'Switching over to post-paid package not practicable' -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

‘Switching over to post-paid package not practicable’

By: Zulqernain Tahir

LAHORE: About 96 to 97 per cent of 120 million cellphone subscribers in the country are using pre-paid connections and asking them to switch over to the post-paid package is not practicable.

The telecom operators have not only expressed serious concern over the interior minister’s plan to do away with pre-paid mobile phone service, but have also decided to persuade the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority not to succumb to the ministry’s pressure. “PTA’s acceptance of the interior ministry’s plan would have serious repercussion on the telecom industry,” one of them said.

He said he believed that some quarters in the government had decided to target the cellphone companies and the National Accountability Bureau’s move to implicate them in cases of tax evasion was part of a ‘coordinated effort’.

“Post-paid connection (currently used by only four per cent of the users) is very expensive particularly for the poor segment of society. A security fee is required to get such a connection. Besides it carries no free call and SMS package offers. The subscriber cannot use more than the amount he deposits as security,” says an official of a leading operator.

On the other hand, he says a pre-paid connection is available on payment of a nominal amount and free on presentation of the computerised national identity card (CNIC) and it is subsequently verified and registered by the National Database and Registration Authority on its system 789. No SIM is activated unless the information provided by a customer matches with the Nadra data.In 2009, the PTA had introduced the 668-SIM information system under which a subscriber can check the number of SIMs issued against his CNIC. A couple of years ago also the PTA had initiated blocking of unverified SIMs before the launch of the 789 system. According to a PTA official, over three million unregistered SIMs of all five operators had been blocked.

“Now the authority is working on introducing a more foolproof system, requiring the thumb impression of a subscriber and the SIM delivery to his or her house,” he said.

The operators have no problem with getting thumb impression but they have objected to dispatching the SIM to postal address because in their opinion it will create hassle for people living in far-flung areas.

The PTA has expressed concern over the issuance of SIMs on fake CNICs but, at the same time, Nadra claims that it has a foolproof system. “If no fake CNIC is issued then there should be no question of issuance of fake SIMs,” said the PTA official.