70.5 million SIMs verified: PTA

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) and mobile phone operators on Saturday announced that biometric verification of SIMs was proceeding smoothly and expressed optimism that the process would be completed prior to the April 12 deadline.

In the first two phases which have been completed successfully, 70.5 million SIMs out of around 136 million were verified against 54 million Computerized National Identity Cards (CNIC). Till date 11 million SIMs have been blocked.

During a news conference PTA Chairman Dr Syed Ismail Shah alongside CEOs of mobile companies asked remaining subscribers to have their SIMs verified, emphasizing that there would be no extension in the April 12 deadline.

Chairman PTA replying to various queries with regard to biometric verification process said such a system was started last year when all the operators agreed to issue new SIMs through biometric system and in this regard they invested a huge amount.

He said already around 37 million new SIMs were issued through biometric verification system and added in total now more than 100 million SIMs have been verified with thumb impression.

He said telcos are making all out efforts to verify rest of the SIMs before the end of the final deadline.

Dr. Ismail Shah lauded the ongoing efforts of the cellular operators and said PTA in collaboration with five telecom operators had taken all measures to ensure accomplishment of the government’s National Action Plan (NAP).

He said all operators and their franchises and retail network played a pivotal role towards meeting deadlines and added as per guidelines of Ministry of Interior the final deadline would not be extended which is also in the best interest of the country.

“This gives more responsibility to PTA the operators and most importantly on responsible citizens to ensure that we should get out of homes and offices and play our part in making a contribution to a safer future for our children,” the PTA Chairman added.

In response to a question Telenor CEO said the verification of SIMs was a huge costly and inconvenient project, but the operators are committed in their bid to support government’s role to counter terrorism in the country.

He said Pakistan is an ideal place for investment as his company has invested more than 600 million Dollars last year to expand and ensure quality services to subscribers.

The same stancewas of CEO Mobilink who said there exists fantastic environment
for investment in telecom sector in Pakistan. Mr. Foley admitted that there were some issues with regard to verification of huge subscriber base such as malfunction of biometric machine or over charging by some retailers but these were addressed on priority.

Naveed khalid Butt of Ufone said telecom industry had deployed more than 80 000 biometric machines for the SIM verification drive which were deployed by all five operators.

These machines have been handed over to various retailers across Pakistan in a move which provides ease of access to consumers in all regions.
He said the telcos have also come up with various innovative methods and activities to reach maximum number of people possible before the extended deadline i.e. reach out programs where biometric verification teams visit government organizations universities press clubs and other similar organizations and door to door verification.
Dr. Ismail Shah reiterated that PTA would ensure taking all possible measures to facilitate the re verification process.