Cellphone companies fail to block unregistered SIMs
KARACHI, June 15: As cellular companies have failed to block seven million unregistered cellphone connections within the deadline, the authorities have found 3.5 million more unregistered subscribers and have vowed to move against the service providers after June 30, which is the new deadline for the task.
Officials in cellular companies said the campaign to block unregistered SIMs (subscriber identity modules) launched last month following directives by the Senate’s Standing Commi-ttee on the Interior, which set May 22 as the deadline for blocking seven million connections, had failed to achieve the target.
“However, the latest figures compiled by the companies and the Pakistan Telecommuni-
cation Authority (PTA) suggest that a total of 5.6 million SIMs were blocked by the stipulated time,” said a source close to the process.
“Though the committee has extended the deadline to June 30, it has demanded another 3.5 million SIMs be blocked as records of such subscribers are not available with Nadra (the National Database and Registration Authority).”
He said the findings of the Senate Committee have disclosed facts that identified serious violations of the rules designed by the telecoms watchdog and the cellular companies, which led to more than 10 million unverified subscribers, with the majority of these unregistered connections sold in Karachi.“Nearly half of these unregistered subscribers have been located in Karachi,” said the source, citing the committee’s findings.
“Irregularities have been found in connection with sales by all companies operating in the city and such facts have been put on record to decide a future course of action against such companies.”
For instance, he said, a mobile phone company was found having sold some 10,000 connections registered in the name of a single person, whose national identity card copy was the only document the company had.
85 million subscribers
The country witnessed a phenomenal jump in cellular subscribers in 2004 when two foreign telecom companies launched their operations and triggered a competition, which led to more than 85 million users of mobile phone services across the country by April 2008.
The PTA data shows Mobilink leads the market share with more than 31 million subscribers across the country followed by Ufone with 17.53 million users. Norwegian company Telenor enjoys a total of 17.32 million subscribers, while 14.76 million people use the service of UAE’s Warid.
China Mobile has attracted more than three million subscribers so far while Instaphone’s subscriber base has fallen to 321,201, says the PTA data. The authorities, however, say the rules are violated by almost all companies, posing a serious challenge to the law enforcement agencies.
A senior member of the Senate’s committee confirmed that the deadline, offered to all these companies with foreign stakes and management control, had not been met but argued that they should be allowed more time as the number of irregular subscribers had increased by more than 50 per cent.
“When we started the campaign there were seven million subscribers, who were marked as unregistered,” Senator Mohammad Talha Mahmood Aryan, chairman of the standing committee, told Dawn.
“But later we found during meetings with Nadra officials and PTA representatives, in many cases the cellular companies did not send their subscriber details to Nadra for verification of identity. Now the total number stands at 11.5 million and we consider all of them as a threat to security and want them blocked too.”
Answering a question, he said the committee would consider action against companies that had failed to block unregistered SIMs despite the extended deadline.
“We don’t want to hurt anyone’s business,” said Senator Aryan. “Our focus is to address the security issue, which is quite major in the presence of a large number of unregistered connections. We publicized the issue through the media and asked people to get registered. If someone still avoids registration, we are justified to block his or her SIM.”