Biometric re-verification goes smooth; 70.5m SIMs re-verified


The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) and mobile phone operators on Saturday announced that the biometric re-verification of SIMs is going in a smooth manner and expressed their optimism to complete the process before April 12 deadline.

The process which started from February 12 is being run in phases as the two phases have already completed successfully in which almost 70.5 million SIMs out of around 136 million re-verified so far against 54 million Computerized National Identity Cards (CNICs) and up till now 11 million SIMs have been blocked.

At a press conference, Chairman PTA, Dr Syed Ismail Shah, flanked by chief executive officers and higher officials of mobile phone companies, asked the remaining subscribers to get their SIMs re-verified as there shall be no extension in final deadline of April 12, 2015.

The mobile companies were represented by Michael Foley, Telenor of CEO, Jaffrey Hedberg, CEO of Mobilink CEO, Liu Dianfang CEO of Zong, Naveed Khalid Butt, Chief of Commercial and Regulatory Affairs of Ufone and Farid Ahmed of Warid. PTA’s Member for Finance, Tariq Sultan and Member for Enforcement, Abdul Samad were also present on the occasion.

The PTA chairman, replying to various queries with regard to biometric re-verification process, said basically such a system was started last year when all the operators were 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 reverify 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 government’s National Action Plan (NAP).

He said all the 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, he added.

In response to a question, Telenor CEO said the re-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 stance was of CEO Mobilink, who said: “There exists fantastic environment for investment in telecom sector in Pakistan.”

Foley admitted that there were some issues with regard to re-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 re-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 re-verification teams visit government organizations, universities, press clubs and other similar organizations, and door to door re-verification.

Dr Ismail Shah reiterated that PTA would ensure taking all possible measures to facilitate the re-verification process.