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 The Case for SIM Card Registration

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PostSubject: The Case for SIM Card Registration   Fri Jan 28, 2011 11:47 pm

The recent string of bombings in the country has prompted the debate
over pre-paid SIM card registration. This is because the bombers used a
cellphone to remotely trigger the bomb on the bus in EDSA.

The debate revolves around privacy concerns and national security.
This has been discussed before and there were actually efforts before to
make into a law requiring prepaid SIM card buyers to register the
number to their name. Obviously, that move was stuck down by privacy
advocates and lobbyists but because of the recent incidents, the issue
has been revived.



SIM card registration is being implemented in many countries around
the world, including neighboring Singapore. Aside from security issues,
there are many other benefits that can be derived from the move to
register pre-paid SIM cards.

  • Postpaid Subscribers already do SIM registration. Over 2 million
    postpaid subscribers in the Philippines have registered their names
    against their SIM cards and the system has been in place for over a
    decade. Adding pre-paid SIM cards into the lot is technically doable
    although may require some time and effort.
  • SIM Registration allows for proper accountability, much like
    registering a vehicle or a gun. If a SIM card user knows their number
    can be traced back to their name, they might not make impulsive actions
    to malign, threaten, scam or defraud other people. One can now easily
    report and block scammers from using anonymous numbers to do their MO.
  • SIM Replaceability. If a certain SIM card number is registered to
    your name, and it has been stolen or lost, you can easily request the
    SIM card to be de-activated and get a replacement SIM card (same way you
    do with postpaid SIM cards nowadays). No more alibis saying you lost
    your phone or your SIM card has been damaged since you can always get a
    replacement card for the same number.


<blockquote>Chinese mobile phone users show SIM cards in front of his
ID card in Suzhou city, east Chinas Jiangsu province, 22 December 2009.
After pushing the real name system for online game users on August 1,
China will expand the policy to mobile phone users starting from
September 1, local media reported.

According to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology
(MIIT), new mobile phone users need to register with their real names
from September 1, while old customers also need to submit their
information within three years. According to a report from Xinhua, 70
percent of over 700 million mobile subscribers in China are currently
using pre-paid cards and thus did not register, making misuse for SMS
spam and fraud easy {source: Corbis}.</blockquote>
Of course, this move does not guarantee than it will prevent future
incidents like the recent bus bombing. And with over 73 million
subscribers in the country, the idea of registering the tens of millions
of existing SIM users seems almost impossible.
Aside from the logistical problems, there are other reasons why telcos might not want to go this route:

  • The burden of registering existent prepaid SIM card users will most
    likely be shouldered by the telcos and that effort requires more
    resources and manpower.
  • SIM registration might cripple the existing distribution and sales
    channels. Re-selling SIM cards will no longer be as easy as buying a can
    of soda at 7-11.
  • It will not look good from a marketing perspective — the subscriber
    figures (over 73 million) being paraded lately is actually defined as
    “activated” not “active” users. Once a prepaid SIM card is activated, it
    is counted as 1 but if that card is lost, damaged, expired or no longer
    being used it is not deducted from the total count (making the numbers a
    bit bloated). Bigger numbers are better for marketing. By doing SIM
    registration, the total count could shrink considerably.
  • People can still fake details of their registration. This is where
    the idea of the “national ID system” comes into play but that’s for
    another discussion altogether.

SIM registration will not totally prevent occurrences like the bus
bombing from happening again. It does make it a little harder though.
It’s not fool-proof but it can be an effective deterrent when combined
with other security measures.
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