25m unverified SIMs blocked

Published April 14, 2015
PTA sources said the phone numbers of those who had failed to get their SIMs verified through the biometric system would not be allotted to anyone else.— AFP/file
PTA sources said the phone numbers of those who had failed to get their SIMs verified through the biometric system would not be allotted to anyone else.— AFP/file

LAHORE: More than 25 million unverified and unclaimed mobile phone subscriber identity modules (SIMs) have been blocked after a three-month deadline for biometric verification of 103m prepaid connections expired on Sunday.

Sources in the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) told Dawn on Monday that 25m SIMs which could not be verified had been blocked.

They said the PTA and the ministry of information technology would begin an audit of the verified and unverified SIMs in a few days to ascertain the claim of the telecommunication services operators.

Read: SIMs’ biometric verification deadline

They said the phone numbers of those who had failed to get their SIMs verified through the biometric system would not be allotted to anyone else. “They can get their mobile phone numbers unblocked by visiting the customer service centres of the operators concerned during the next six months,” they said, adding that a helpline for the blocked SIMs would remain open during the period.

The telecom operators — Mobilink, Ufone, Telenor, Warid and Zong — launched biometric verification of prepaid SIMs on Jan 13 on the directives of the government.

Also read: Deadline for SIM verification ends today

The number of mobile phone subscribers in the country is around 140m. Up to 10 per cent of them are post-paid connections which were excluded from the re-verification process because their data was already with the cellular companies.

A large number of people visited outlets of the operators across the country on Monday to get their SIMs unblocked.

In Peshawar, a large number of Afghan nationals held protests outside some retail points and franchises of the companies for blocking their SIMs.

“A month ago I visited a retail point of my cellular company in Model Town. Seeing a huge rush there I went back and could not find time to get my SIM verified. Today the operator blocked my SIM and I rushed to its office at 9am and got it unblocked,” Muddassar Rizvi, a trader, said.

Shahzeb Khan, another subscriber, said he was expecting that the date for the verification would be extended and he could avoid the rush at the centres. But that did not happen and he had to rush to get his SIM unblocked.

On the other hand, a ban on issuance of new SIMs by franchises and retailers of the five telecom operators was lifted on Monday.

When the government set a three-month deadline for the re-verification of SIMs, it also banned their sale at franchises and retail centres of the companies in order to pay full attention to the process.

Only the customer service centres of the five operators, which are fewer than 500, were allowed to issue new SIMs during the period. There are about 60,000 retail outlets and 1,000 franchises of the operators across the country. Biometric verification system machines have been installed at all outlets.

A large number of subscribers had to visit offices of the National Database and Registration Authority to remove discrepancies in their thumb impressions. Most of them had to apply for new computerised national identity cards for the purpose.

Published in Dawn, April 14th, 2015

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