Effective management of SIM issue
TANWEER SHEHZAD KHATTAK
Economy is the backbone of a country’s progression and development. Different sectors play their vital role in overall gross domestic product (GDP) growth. In Pakistan, no doubt, the telecommunication sector has played a vital role since last decade.
During this period, the competitive environment reached its zenith by creating hundreds and thousands of jobs for telecom professionals (directly and indirectly), increased foreign direct investment (FDI), facilitated and created awareness among the general public.
Due to neck and neck competition, mobile companies in their pursuit to capture the market, put emphasis on increase of their product sales. With the increased product sale, which is directly proportional to the economical growth, it also raises a concern regarding issuance of SIMs to a particular customer without valid antecedents, though procedures and mechanisms have already been defined by Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA).
Pre “789” era: PTA, being the telecom regulator, had already defined a procedure in 2005 to be followed while issuing new SIMs. To manage the issue, the task was initially split in two phases in 2007, including sale of new SIMs and clearing of old subscribers’ record through NADRA. All mobile companies were directed to get their data verified through NADRA in batches.
Apart from this, PTA made a stringent check on new SIM sale through random surveys/inspections throughout the country employing the workforce available with all its zonal offices. The efforts became fruitful and quite a large number of data got verified through NADRA. This, however, did not affect the subscribers’ growth since around 2.5 million SIMs per month were still being sold.
During this period, a continuous analysis of the on ground situation was done with the view to streamlining/enhancing the processes. In February, 2008, PTA issued a revised Standing Operating Procedure (SOP) defining each and every aspect so as to make the process simpler and more effective.
Features of this SOP included marking of sellers’ premises, ie from companies own sales outlets up to franchisees and retail levels, limit of 10 connections per company was fixed against single CNIC. Moreover, the Cellular Service Agreement Form (CSAF) used to sell SIMs was made comprehensive and a stringent monitoring was started. Mobile companies were directed by PTA to make sure to get subscriber’s data verified within a month of its sale.
With the above-mentioned steps, a remarkable improvement was seen and around 11.2 million unverified SIMs were blocked, however, desired results in achieving the target of 100% verification of mobile subscribers’ antecedents was still lagging behind. Major reasons were authentication issues at sale points, human involvement for verification of antecedents and likely misuse of readily available pre-active SIMs in the market. Apart from this, the lengthy manual verification process in batches through NADRA database had likely chances of misuse of SIMs.
Sale of SIMs after verification through NADRA: Keeping in view the above mentioned anomalies in the old system, especially the manual procedures, after deliberate discussion with all stakeholders and market research, PTA introduced a new system of “Sale of Non-Active SIMs” with effect from February, 2009 that involved the Information and Communication Technology (ICT).
As per this system, a deactivated SIM is sold, which is activated only after online verification through NADRA’s database by verifying the CNIC of the intended customer and answering the two mandatory secret questions, ie mother’s name and place of birth. With the implementation of this new system, a total of 12.62 million pre-activated SIMs, available in the market, were blocked.
The importance of new system can best be judged by this fact that it offers a centralised control and responsibility of SIM activation/registration by operators through an efficient and effective verification procedure and enhanced authentication parameters. It also provides a real time analysis of sales of SIMs and monitoring.
It is also pertinent to mention that no system can best work until followed by strict monitoring. To have a foolproof system in place, stringent monitoring of this system is being carried out by PTA, including surveys to check the sale of SIMs by franchisees and retail outlets, monthly pre-active SIM sale surveys to see the availability of any pre-active SIM.
Call Centres are also inspected to check the verification process in line with the set procedures. On the basis of this monitoring/PTA so far has closed 45 defaulter franchisees whereas 18 franchisees have been penalised, while registration certificates of 40 retailers found in violation of the SOP have been cancelled.
Cleaning of old subscribers’ data: As already discussed, the regularisation of SIMs has been carried out in two streams, ie “Sale of New SIMs” and “Cleaning of Old Data”. As far as cleaning of old data is concerned, it has been carried out in three extensive and deliberated phases. In phase-I, a comprehensive analysis was made and as a result, a total of 8.25 million unverified connections and 2.92 million more than 10 connections issued against single CNIC were blocked by 31st January, 2009 by the PTA.
SIM Identity System – 667: In second phase parallel to the above-mentioned phase, a system was introduced where customers can check the antecedents of a particular SIM by sending blank SMS to short code “667”. The concerned subscriber can get his data corrected, through Customer Services Center/Franchisee of respective mobile company if found incorrect.
Introduction of SIM Information of System – 668: Apart from the above steps, PTA with a view to involving the general public and to facilitate them to know the count of SIMs registered against their CNICs, introduced a new system called “SIM Information System – 668” with effect from 15th October, 2009.
Through this facility, the customer can know the details of SIMs registered against his CNIC along with the names of concerned mobile company by sending his/her CNIC number to short code 668 and can get the extra SIMs unregistered from his/her name by lodging complaint at nearest Customer Services Centre/Franchiser of the concerned mobile operator. So far, one million such complaints have been lodged with PTA whereas 1.35 million SIMs have been regularised and 0.57 million non-verified SIMs have been blocked by PTA. The daily, weekly and monthly based-analysis of the 668 system in hand.
A futuristic approach: During the second phase of 668 project, all those SIMs issued against old NICs shall be approached by concerned mobile company to get the SIM transferred to new CNIC within stipulated time period, else the same shall be blocked. In the third phase, all those SIM owners, who did not approach 668 yet to transfer their SIMs to the new CNIC, shall be asked to do the same otherwise their SIMs shall be blocked.
PTA shall continue its efforts till the target of 100% verification of SIMs is achieved, which is not very far away from now. Since the magnitude of the project is very vast, therefore, the awareness/involvement of general public/consumers is very important. PTA therefore urges the consumers to join hands to achieve this national cause for a better and secure Pakistan.
Source: Business Recorder