Business Times

Sri Lanka to tighten mobile phone regulations

By Bandula Sirimanna

Failure to register details of phone users by some mobile service providers in line with an earlier government directive has compelled the Defence Ministry to issue a fresh notice directing all of them to register their subscribers to prove ownership of their respective SIM cards. When contacted, a senior official of the Defence Ministry told the Business Times, that the regitration of mobile phone users is compulsory while those who have already registered with their respective service providers in accordance with the Ministry notice published on September 2008 wouldn’t have to re-register under the new Ministry directive.

Any mobile phone users who don’t register their SIM card/s by December 31 will find their service discontinued, he warned. Under this set up, Sri Lanka will tighten mobile phone regulations by forcing service providers to maintain full details of phone users, the Director General of the Telecommunication Regulatory Commission Anusha Pelpita said. He added that a circular will be shortly issued to all mobile service providers to register/re-register their subscribers to prove ownership of their respective SIM cards in accordance with the Defence Ministry directive.

He told the Business Times that the exercise would help identify mobile phone SIM card owners and curb negative incidents including loss of phone through theft, nuisance text messages, scams, threats, raising unnecessary alarm or creating panic. All mobile phone subscribers should be registered with their respective network and prove ownership of the Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) in their possession whenever they are requested to do so by authorised personnel, he said. SIM card registration, according to Mr. Pelpita, would aid in police investigations, record-keeping, reconciliation and deterring criminal activity perpetrated via mobile phone.

He said would the number of SIMs is being limited to five per person. Restrictions on mobile phone SIM cards are to be imposed on the Defence Ministry directive to minimize crimes, frauds and terrorist activities. All personal details of SIM card holdershare to be provided to the Defence Ministry.
However several mobile service providers said that there is no need for the subscribers to re-register with them. A senior official of Dialog noted that mobile subscriber registration guidelines have been in place for some time and have been adhered to by Dialog and its business partners and resellers. “In line with the recent emphasis on this subject as per the notice published by the Ministry of Defence, we would like to encourage any subscriber who has not provided us with up to date registration data to do so as soon as possible,” he said

Dialog subscribers could verify the status of their registration data by dialing #132# from their handset. A senior official of Mobitel said that they are awaiting a clarification of the Defence Ministry to find out as to whether they should re-register the customers who have already registered with them.
The TRC said it has also taken steps to stop illegal methods used in taking phone calls from international destinations to Sri Lanka by-passing normal channels. Mr. Pelpita said that International Gateway Bypass, using a SIM box with hundreds of SIM cards is a growing problem for the regulators and Mobile Operators, and it is also one of the most severe threats to revenue and quality of service.

nternational Gateway Bypass works by having multiple SIM Cards installed into GSM Gateways (SIM Boxes). The SIM Box is sited within range of a radio antenna and is used to connect inbound international calls to the destination network. This allows the international calls to be terminated as domestic calls and therefore charged at retail prices. The fraudsters sell their routes to the wholesale voice market and make considerable profit from global inbound traffic generated through a variety of low-quality voice services, he said. In order to prevent this malpractice, the TRC has reduced the tax on (incoming) international calls from $3.80 to $1.30 and make compulsory the registration of broadband users excluding ADSL users with the regulator. He added that the illegal calls to Sri Lanka has been reduced by 30 % as a result of this tax reduction.

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