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SIM registration: China Mobile launches first biometric system

Karachi: China Mobile Pakistan launched the country’s first biometric verification system at one of its customer support centers which is an initiative towards those sims which are not verified or registered.

Zong’s Chief Public Relations Officer Sikandar Naqi said, “Zong, the brand name for CM Pak, will install 30,000 biometric devices across Pakistan.”
This would cost the company approximately $5 million in terms of equipment expenses while there would be recurring cost as well.
According to reports the technology has started from Karachi and would be gradually introduced in all franchises and customer support centers of Zong across the country.

This development came is a wakeup call from the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), asking all mobile operators to complete the deployment of biometric devices at their customer support centers and franchises in Karachi by November 30 and all over the country by December 20.
“This is the beginning of a system whereby the relationship between a SIM card and its owner would be clear,” PTA Chairman Syed Ismail Shah said at the launch ceremony.

It’s a key concept that will ensure that the buyer of a new SIM and the person against whose name it is issued are the same.
Shah, who was in the city in response to SC’s notice in the Karachi violence case, was flooded with questions about unverified SIMs, the upcoming spectrum auction and unblocking of social video-sharing website Youtube.
The system can verify the number of SIMs registered against a CNIC number, complying with the regulation that limits it to a maximum five SIMs against one identity card.

Under the system, customers would be required to visit the mobile operator’s customer support centre or franchise where the device is deployed and provide his finger prints. This biometric information would be verified from the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA)’s database – a process that will take about 15 seconds.

If the information matches the customer’s CNIC data at NADRA, his SIM will be activated.

SIM verification mechanisms were first introduced in 2007-08, according to Zong. Initially, all SIMs were verified by NADRA through an offline channel. In 2009, a new method was introduced where customers would activate their SIMs by dialing 789 to verify their record from NADRA. From 2009 to 2012, a text-based SIM verification process was introduced in four different phases.
However, none of these measures helped the regulator overcome the problem of unregistered SIMs. Hence, the PTA is now encouraging the telecom operators to start installing biometric devices with a foolproof system.

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