The Case for SIM Card Registration

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.

Yugatech 728x90 Reno7 Series

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}.

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.

Avatar for Abe Olandres

Abe is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of YugaTech. You Can follow him on Twitter @abeolandres.

76 Responses

  1. Avatar for Chioma Ada Jesus Chioma Ada Jesus says:

    Well i think government of different countries of the world should also help to enforce some other ways to reduce crimes and also to stop many fraudsters in the country from functioning.

  2. Avatar for nexusboy nexusboy says:

    Yugatech please also feature the pending Mobile Telephone Number Portability Act wherein mobile subscribers can RETAIN their number when transferring to a different network provider. The bill has been filed several times in the House of Representatives and in the Senate for several years, to no avail. Now that we are seeing SIM Registration finally to be enforced, the next reasonable step is to have MTN Portability Act signed into a law as well! I am hoping for your support Yugatech.


  3. Avatar for japong japong says:

    if they want to implement this they should have done it way back before cellphones and text messages boom (pre-text era). Sa dami dami nang pwede mabilhan mg sim card sa pinas kahit sa sari sari store meron ang iba hindi lang iisa sim dalawa o tatlo pa, paano maireregister lahat ng sim tiyak napakalaking trabaho at gastos sa telecom. Pero sa tingin ko sa mga database ng telecom pwede sila magabiso sa pamamgitan ng text sa lahat ng mobile numbers na nasa database nila na dapat iregister nila ang kanilang number or else mabloblock ito sa isetset na timeline kunwari within six months at dapat meron mga register booth sa ibat ibang lugar ang mga telecom at dagsaan ang magreregister. Kaya magastos at matrabaho talaga ito.

  4. Avatar for Inayat Ullah Inayat Ullah says:

    Dear friends,
    how can i know owner name? can you help me plz send me detail.

  5. Avatar for Scalp Scalp says:

    Definitely believe that that you said. Your favorite reason appeared to be at the web the easiest thing to bear in mind of. I say to you, I certainly get annoyed while other folks think about issues that they just don’t understand about. You managed to hit the nail upon the highest and outlined out the entire thing without having side-effects , other people can take a signal. Will likely be back to get more. Thanks!

  6. Avatar for Snofsan Snofsan says:

    Ok lang naman mag pa Sim registration. May mga professionals here in the Philippines that specialized in securing databases and companies. Sa akin lang kung walang disciplina kahit anung systema implement ng mga local Telcos or ng kahit anung bansa hindi magiging maganda Kahit na democratic pa yan or authoritarian. Hindi natin pwedeng i-asa sa gobyerno lahat. Hirap kasi sa karamihan sa atin eh abusado.

  7. Avatar for JN Ebrahim JN Ebrahim says:

    The Phil. Government is too late on imposing this Policy. It should be Approve and implement wether they like or not. For the GOOD SIDE nman poh. =D

  8. Avatar for Miklos Miklos says:

    Just use the danish ID system – even Japan is using it now.

    It’s robust, it’s proven to work and it’s simple.

    Then there would be no issue at all – require all sim cards to be registered with the person ID number and voila security has been improved and all the privacy nuts can rest assured it doesn’t leak info.

  9. Avatar for leemar leemar says:

    tama yan! i register lahat ng sim, para maiwasan na din ang lokohan. para magka alaman na kung sino talaga sa 3 telcos ang maraming subscribers.

  10. Avatar for raymond raymond says:

    Human manipulation is only needed for maintenance.

  11. Avatar for JKisaragi JKisaragi says:

    I like the idea of having this SIM REGISTRATION implemented here.

    They’re right in a way, Postpaid subscribers are already subject to this. All of their info is with our carriers. So how is it any different if Prepaid subscribers were to give out their info as well?

    This one-time solution would certainly beat the costs of having more incompetent men out there.

    Funny thing about CCTVs is that some people think they can install these things and that they’ll be instantly protected. Bad news is that you need real men/women to be on-guard watching those screens in real-time in order for it to be THAT effective.

    Power consumption + Manpower on a 24/7 operation is in my opinion, not that cost-effective.

  12. Avatar for Jan Christopher Jan Christopher says:

    This is good but conduct a forum or an online poll so that the CONGRESS & TELCOS will know what we fill like lessening the bomb scare carnappings kidnappings & more

  13. Avatar for Ed Ed says:

    Bakit hindi gawing yung cellphone na lang ang nakaregister? I mean lahat yan meron unique IEMI.

    Oo pwede palitan yan ng mga technicians pero kung pwede nga i-block ng telcos ang mga expired SIMs bakit hindi pwede i-filter ang cellphones na hindi naka-register ang IEMI? I don’t know if this is feasible pero at least kahit papaano madidiscourage din nito ang nakawan ng cellphones.

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