Sale of mobile connections plunges
KARACHI, Dec 20: After government decision of imposing ban on sale of SIMs at retail outlets, some leading cell phone operators have claimed 70 to 80 per cent drop in their daily sales.
Telenor Pakistan’s Corporate Communications director Atifa Asghar said that change in the policy on retail sales had virtually shut down 99 per cent of their sales outlets.
“This has resulted in approximately 80 per cent reduction in our SIM sales,” she added.
She said the company is working closely with the government and the PTA to find acceptable machine readable solutions that would help improve CNIC verification. This may, however, take another two to three months, she added.
Ufone’s head of public relations Aamir Pasha said that the company’s daily sale of SIMs had declined by 75 per cent.
Other operators, contacted by Dawn, said that they cannot give exact percentage of decline but drop in sales is significant.
Cellular phone operators are now considering various options, including making an offer to the PTA that they there should be effective retail outlets with improved documentation conditions, mainly in the suburb areas of the country.
A cell phone company official said that prior to Dec 1, average sale of SIM per day was estimated between 150,000 and 200,000 through franchises, customers care centres and retailers.
The number of franchises in the country is nearly 2,000, including customer care centers of cellular operators.
People are now purchasing new SIMs from franchise stores and customer care centres but a limited number of them can approach these stores and centres mainly in cities.
Operators believed that retail outlets across the country were an effective mode of spread of cellular services in remote areas.
They feared that discontinuation of SIM sales at retail outlets would slow down penetration of mobile phone services to a large population in rural areas.
On the other hand, it would cost extra losses to companies as their subscribers are restricted to grow in areas where they have set up their cellular sites.
Some cell phone industry people said that till Dec 1, about 15-20 million SIMs, available in the market for sale, had been blocked by all the five operators as per directives of the PTA.
The collection of dead stock of 15-20 million SIMs from around 0.2 million retail outlets is being calculated, taking it into consideration that the retailers of the five operators on average would be holding 100 SIMs.
Many big and medium sized retailers must be holding around 300-500 SIMs of various operators.
The average price of a SIM is Rs100, but some operators have reduced prices to Rs50 or it was being offered free of cost in last month.
The government may face revenue shortfall in December due to sharp drop in SIM sales, a cell phone operator said.
He said that the process of SIM stock buyback from 0.2 million retailers may take more than one and half months.
He said that the PTA had given deadline to all cell-phone companies to come up with suggestions regarding deployment of equipment at all sales channels for verifying biometrics, like thumb impression of SIM purchasers online through Nadra database by Feb 28.