Pakistan Mulls a Complete Ban on PrePay SIM Cards
Pakistan's government is considering a radical plan which could dramatically alter the mobile phone industry in the country - as it mulls proposals to ban Prepaid SIM cards from sale.
The Interior Minister Rehman Malik said that the government is considering a phased ban on all prepaid SIM cards in an effort to clamp down on terrorism in the country.
However, with something in the region of 97% of the entire mobile subscriber base on PrePay tariffs, the impact on the industry would be huge.
In addition to the costs of upgrading billing systems to cope with the surge in contract customers, and having facilities in retail stores to cope with the migration - the networks would also face a hole in their finances as payments switch from in advance, to monthly in arrears.
The regulator has been trying to clamp down on the issuance of prepaid SIM cards without proof of identity being supplied, but banning prepaid entirely is a move which has alarmed the mobile networks.
One official for a mobile network said that it wasn't their fault that mobile phones can be smuggled into prisons or used for crimes.
There are around 118 million mobile phone users in the country. It is not yet clear how many would be able to provide the necessary security deposits and documentation to sign up for a contract tariff.
If the plan is not killed off swiftly, it is also expected to have a negative effect on the forthcoming 3G license auction, as networks will have legitimate concerns about their ability to sell 3G services to customers.