Telecom companies have been directed to disconnect services of subscribers who have more than nine SIM cards in their names. The move comes in the wake of the government making stricter rules on owning SIMs following surge in cases where criminals misuse them.
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The new norms came into effect on Friday with the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) amending the customer verification norms for mobile phone users.
Scores of subscribers have multiple SIMs with several owning more than 100, a government official said. Telecom companies, desperate to add subscribers, have been lenient in checking multiple connections and do not verify credentials of such users.
Earlier, operators were offering free and pre-activated prepaid connections with SIMs at their company-managed outlets or franchise across the country. According to new customer verification norms, activated prepaid SIMs have been banned as reported by Mail Today on November 3.
The newspaper on October 30 had reported on how security agencies are concerned over growing misuse of SIMs and have asked DoT to expedite the process of forming a mechanism through which database of Unique Identification Authority of India could be shared to verify credential of subscribers.
According to industry insiders, there are almost 25-30 per inactive connections out of the total 94 crore mobile phone subscriber base as revealed by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai). The inactive connections were mostly owned by subscribers who had multiple SIM cards.
While telecom companies have been adding subscribers on an average of over 20 lakh per month, they have reported a fall in customer addition since August this year. During September, there was a drop of 0.2 per cent while it was 2.5 per cent in October.
“Obviously, subscribers are being added but number of disconnections of inactive SIMs are more. Mobile numbers are precious and should be judicially utilised,” said a DoT official. A survey conducted by Nielsen in June revealed that 71 million, or approximately eight per cent, out of the total number of subscribers in the country use multiple SIM cards.
Cities with population between 5-10 lakh have the highest density of multiple SIM users, which is about 21 per cent, the survey added. About 11 per cent of multiple SIM users are based out of towns with 40lakh population.
Only nine per cent users belong to rural areas, the survey said. According to the survey, youth constitute the highest number of multiple SIM users. Forty-five per cent between the age group of 18 and 25 years use multiple SIMs. Most of them are students, working professionals and newly employed.
A multi-SIM user prefers different operators and prepaid connection. Besides, smaller operators are more popular among multi-SIM users.