Over 100 mn Pakistan mobile subscribers may lose connections

Islamabad, Dec 29 A huge number of pre-paid mobile phone users in Pakistan may lose their connections since telecom operators have expressed their “inability” to re-verify the subscribers within a 28-day deadline set by the government.

The telecom operators had sought 150-200 more days for completion of the re-verification process. Otherwise, they say, they will have to block the pre-paid SIMs (subscriber identification modules) to meet the deadline, Dawn online reported citing a source in the industry.

According to the source, there are about 140 million SIMs in the country and only 10 percent of them are post-paid ones.

The interior ministry of Pakistan set the 28-day deadline after the Dec 16 Peshawar school attack during which the terrorists had used “biometric verified” SIMs for communication.

Pakistan 3G auctionThe representatives of five operators — Mobilink, Ufone, Telenor, Warid and Zong — will hold a meeting this week with Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Minister of State for IT and Telecommunication Anusha Rehman and Pakistan Telecommunication Authority Chairman Ismail Shah to discuss and a find a solution to the problem.

“The operators will apprise the government of their inability to re-verify over 100 million pre-paid SIMs in such a short time. We will seek a realistic period for the purpose,” an official of a leading mobile phone company told Dawn.

He said the general public would be the ultimate sufferer if the SIMs were blocked for a month.

“The affected persons will rush to customer sale centres, franchises and retailers to get post-paid SIMs ,” he added.

In order to stop the sale of illegal SIMs, the PTA had introduced the biometric verification system about a year ago. Although the cellular companies have installed the system at their customer sales centres, franchises and retailers, still there are complaints about the sale of illegal and unauthorised SIMs.

But the companies claim that since the introduction of the biometric system, the sale of “illegal and unregistered SIMs has not been possible any more”.