LAHORE: Cellular phone companies claimed on Friday to have met the Dec 20 deadline set by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to install at their outlets in Karachi, Islamabad, Lahore, Quetta, Peshawar, Multan and Faisalabad the biometric verification system meant for stopping the illegal sale of SIMs.
The PTA had asked the companies to complete the process of installing biometric verification system (BVS) at their service and sales centres and franchises in the major cities by Dec 20 in the first phase and in the remaining parts of the country by middle of next year.
Authorities concerned believe that after the installation of the ‘fool-proof SIM sale system’, loopholes regarding selling of illegal SIMs have been checked but unscrupulous elements may still target small towns to fraudulently get the SIMs.
The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has also been cautioned by the authorities concerned to take care in issuing Nadra’s data-based voter lists to check misuse, especially in obtaining SIMs in others’ names.
Under the biometric verification system, a SIM will be issued to an applicant after a thumb impression has been obtained and its subsequent verification by National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) at any outlet of a cellphone operator.
“Unless an applicant visits our centre for thumb impression, the SIM cannot be issued to him or her,” an official of a cellular company told Dawn.
He said that Nadra is charging Rs28 for verification of every SIM. Earlier, it charged Rs13 for the purpose.
It is learnt that installation of the biometric system across the country at around 70,000 to 75,000 retail points of all the operators may cost about Rs2.8 billion. Operators may increase the price of a SIM to offset the impact of the new system’s cost.
A senior PTA official told Dawn that it had started receiving the progress report regarding installation of the biometric verification system from five telecom operators — Mobilink, Ufone, Telenor, Zong and Warid — and would launch its (PTA) inspection from next week.
“Since we are checking the unverified SIMs already issued under the old systems, we are optimistic that there will be a zero chance of issuance of illegal SIMs after the biometric system is completely installed across the country,” the official said.