Glitchy biometric machines getting on customers’ nerves

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Scores of cellphone users were seen running from one franchise to another for getting their SIMs (subscriber identity modules) registered as biometric machines at most of the outlets were found inactive, prompting the need for replacing the malfunctioning devices by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA).

Even after paying visits to a number of franchises, many customers failed to have their SIMs verified biometrically simply because of glitches in the devices.

Initially, about 80,000 biometric verification machines worth $300 to $400 each were installed throughout the country. However these devices have been found insufficient to register biometrically the cellphone users whose number runs in millions.

Many people have expressed dissatisfaction over the number of biometric machines available, especially elderly users and those having no conveyance at all as they cannot roam around in search of one biometric device working properly.

When interviewed, these people said it was a whole-day process, adding that one could not register their SIM taking time off duty hours.

When asked about accuracy or inaccuracy of the biometric machines installed at several franchises, the staff refused to comment and feared that clients might not visit them in future.

They also claimed that their machines were working properly, adding that the complaints might have been launched with franchise outlets of other cellular companies.

The PTA chairman had acknowledged the fact that a number of biometric machines were malfunctioning, but no replacements have been made so far.

The interior minister had issued directions following which the PTA had 91 days to authenticate 103 million connections and block the disowned SIMs under the government’s National Action Plan (NAP) Through the BVS, the exercise of authenticating connections started on January 12, and it was undertaken after the terror attack on Army Public School Peshawar on December 16, 2014.

It has been learnt that the PTA has not made any helpline number available to customers for complains about malfunctioning machine.

Responding to a question, a spokesperson for the PTA said people should lodge complaint with the relevant phone company or with the PTA if machines were not working properly in their areas.

To another query, Khurrum said that currently 100,000 biometric machines were available which were sufficient for the time being, and according to the PTA data, 121.5 million SIMs were already registered biometrically.