PTA looking to scrap SIM cap after verification drive

17 Mar 2015

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) is planning to axe rules restricting the number of SIMs a person can have registered to their Computerised National Identity Card (CNIC) to five, Pro Pakistani writes, citing PTA chairman Dr Ismail Shah. The rule was introduced by a Supreme Court ruling in 2012 based on the security situation and the limitations of the SIM registration scheme at the time, but the regulator claims that the new verification system is secure enough that having more than five SIMs linked to a single CNIC is no longer a security concern. The ongoing re-verification process, the official argued, will allow authorities to reliably trace every SIM in use in Pakistan. Further, Dr Shah pointed out that market trends are moving customers towards using an increasing number of SIMs, for a variety of devices and services beyond basic mobile telephony, including for wireless modems, tablets, security cameras and car tracking services.

In a related story, the nation’s cellular providers commented that they had spent a combined total of at least USD60 million on the re-verification programme – not including loss of potential business – spending USD350-USD400 per unit on rolling out more than 80,000 biometric devices nationwide. The operators also hired ‘thousands’ of employees specifically to help with the process, officials told Pro Pakistani at a press conference earlier this week. Telenor Pakistan CEO Michael Foley said that the cellco had hired 3,600 staff solely for the re-verification drive and had spent ‘tens of millions of dollars’ on the programme, whilst an unnamed Mobilink official confirmed that the operator’s expenses related to SIM re-verification exceeded USD15 million.