Millions of pre-paid SIMs likely to be blocked tomorrow | Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Pakistan Press Foundation

Millions of pre-paid SIMs likely to be blocked tomorrow

Pakistan Press Foundation

LAHORE: Millions of pre-paid SIMs are likely to be blocked tomorrow (Friday) as the government is indecisive whether or not to extend the Feb 26 deadline of biometric verification for those having three or more connections to their names.

A senior official of the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority told Dawn on Wednesday that the government was sticking to the Feb 26 deadline and there might be no review on it. “All the unverified SIMs of those having three or more pre-paid connections will be blocked from Friday. However, those having less than three pre-paid connections, can verify their SIMs till April 13,” the official said.

Know more: 2 million unverified SIMs blocked

The telecom operators – Mobilink, Ufone, Telenor, Zong and Warid – had launched pre-paid SIMs verification on Jan 13 on the direction of the government which is of the view that the step is mandatory to curb terrorism in the country.

Govt insists on sticking to plan

According to the PTA, the number of cell-phone subscribers has reached 140 million in the country. Up to 10pc of them are post-paid connections which the government thinks there is no need to re-verify under the Biometric Verification System (BVS). The telecom operators have to verify 103 million prepaid SIMs through BVS by April 13 in two phases – Feb 26 for those having three or more SIMs and April 13 for those having less than three SIMs.

So far the cellular companies have verified over 53 million SIMs and blocked 10 million. After April 13, it is likely that there will re-positioning of the cellular companies after the blocking of the SIMs of their subscribers.

Since the government had announced the deadline, unprecedented rush is being witnessed at the outlets of the cellular companies. Similarly, a large number of SIM subscribers are visiting the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) to remove discrepancy in mismatch to their thumb impression. A subscriber is paying Rs10 for BVS which goes to the pocket of Nadra.

The telecom operators’ retail points will not issue new prepaid SIMs till the biometric verification of the old prepaid connections till April 13. At present, there are about 60,000 retail centres and 1,500 customer service centres and franchises of the five operators across the country. The BVS machines have been installed at all outlets.

Under the BVS regime, a customer will now have to visit the retailer/franchisee/Customer Service Centre of respective operator, and shall provide his/her CNIC number along with the mobile station integrated services digital network (MSISDN) to be used as primary number for re-verification through BVS.

The sale channel will send CNIC number, MSISDN and related biometric credentials to the system of respective operator using the “Re-Verification” interface. The system will verify the ownership of the MSISDN against the particular CNIC and verification status whether the primary number is already verified or otherwise.

In case the primary number is not verified through BVS, only then the system shall send the biometrics (thumb/finger impression) of the subscriber to Nadra for verification. However, if the CNIC entries don’t match the MSISDN related CNIC number in the system, the process will stop there and subscriber shall be asked to provide correct number or proceed for “Change of Ownership”.

Upon successful BVS verification from Nadra, system shall mark this MSISDN and CNIC combination as “Biometric Re-verified”.