Get Registered by Dec 15, or Get Disconnected
08 Jun 2006, BERNAMA
KUALA LUMPUR, June 8 (Bernama) -- In March 2004, the New York Times reported that security authorities under operation 'Mont Blanc' identified and detained members of an al-Qaeda cell by tracking them to a Swiss prepaid mobile phone service.
A month later, the terrorist bombing incident in Madrid, Spain was linked to a package that reportedly contained a prepaid mobile phone wired to plastic explosives and hidden in a sports bag.
In April last year, there were three simultaneous bombings in Songkhla, Thailand and it was reported that all three bombs were detonated using mobile phones, possibly with prepaid SIM cards.
The discovery reinforced news reports that terrorists were believed to be using prepaid mobile phones for their bombings.
The question is, if we are to believe these reports, then prepaid mobile phones have replaced the streetcorner payphones as the chosen method of those seeking anonymity in their communication, be they obscene callers, criminals or international terrorists.
For this reason, prepaid mobile phone service has captured the attention of law enforcement and national security organisations, some of which would very much like to see regulatory measures put in place to eliminate these so-called anonymous prepaid mobile phones.
Hence, a number of countries that have prepaid cellular phone systems like Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Australia, Switzerland, Taiwan and Thailand, have implemented or are lobbying for a registration requirement for this service.
The Singapore Home Affairs Ministry for instance, as part of its ongoing and holistic security review, and the republic's Infocomm Development Authority have worked together with mobile service providers on a practical regulatory regime over prepaid SIM cards.
According to its website, www2.mha.gov.sg, since implementation of the regulatory regime in November 2005, more than 530,000 prepaid SIM cards have been re-registered.
Singapore Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Home Affairs, Wong Kan Seng, said: "Singapore must address this problem urgently as there are over 1.4 million local prepaid SIM cards, comprising 35 per cent of the mobile phones in circulation today."
He said prepaid SIM cards was an area of security concern where criminals exploited the anonymity of such cards to avoid detection.
Singapore will not be the first, or only country reinforcing controls dealing with the anonymity of prepaid SIM cards. Switzerland and Austalia have enacted legislation to enforce registration requirements.
Indonesia's Minister of Communication and Information had also issued a regulation on Oct 23, 2005 making it mandatory for all prepaid mobile phone subscribers to register their numbers. The prepaid registration ended April 28, 2006.
Malaysia is no exception. Effective January 1, 2006, all new and existing prepaid mobile users are required to register with their respective service providers.
According to Adelina Iskandar, Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC)'s Corporate Communications head, new users need to register their particulars at the point of purchase while existing customers must register before Dec 15, 2006.
"Please register in support of the government's directive for better mobile services and to address security gaps. Do it by Dec 15 this year before it is discontinued and deactivated.
"We are very firm on this. So please do not wait until the last minute," Adelina told Bernama in response to the slow rate of prepaid registration by mobile phone users.
She said the government had earlier initiated a registration exercise in Penang and Melaka from October to December 2005, the precursor to the compulsory nationwide registration.
Adelina noted that the prepaid SIM card market had grown exponentially and along with this, some retailers had not recorded customers' particulars correctly.
"In order to ensure that customers' particulars are accurately recorded, all existing prepaid SIM card users are required to re-register their prepaid SIM cards.
"This also safeguards existing customers and prevents cards from being erroneously registered against their personal particulars," she said.
Adelina said as at Dec 15, 2005, over 170,000 prepaid mobile users in the two states had registered with their respective service providers.
She said as of end of last May, out of 20 million prepaid users, only 3.4 million or less than one per cent had registered, and this low take-up rate could be due to poor awareness among subscribers.
"This is an industry effort and the industry is seeking new ways of registration apart from conducting public awareness campaigns," she added.
Hence, the three celcos in Malaysia -- Maxis Communications Berhad (Maxis), Celcom (Malaysia) Berhad (Celcom) and Digi Telecommunications Sdn Bhd (DiGi) -- which had put up a joint effort to support the government's call since January, are aggressively conducting marketing roadshows and setting up more booths at shopping complexes nationwide.
Maxis Communications Berhad's Corporate Affairs manager, Catherine Leong, said the industry was working on a proactive awareness campaign to educate subscribers on the prepaid registration initiative.
Television and radio-talk shows; advertisements in newspapers (regionally and nationwide); and announcements via radio and TV stations were among on-going efforts to create awareness, she added.
Celcom vice-president (Corporate Communications), Norliza Kamaruddin, said all prepaid users need to do is bring along their mobile phone and proof of identity to any of Celcom's service centres or authorised dealers.
"It's free, easy and compulsory. Register today and stay connected," she said, while assuring that all particulars would be kept strictly confidential.
On a positive note, Adelina is confident that the three celcos will be able to achieve their target as customers will now have a new option, namely MyKad, apart from the manual registration, to register their lines.
She said with the new option, MyKad readers would now be made available at selected authorised dealers.
"What customers need to do is, visit an authorised outlet and hand over their MyKad. The outlet staff inserts it into a MyKad reader to retrieve the required information and transfer it into the celco database."
She said initially the three celcos would have a combined total of 1,000 dealers nationwide equipped with the MyKad readers and the rest would be equipped depending on demand and volume.
As for manual registration, prepaid customers can visit the service provider or its authorised dealers/agents and bring along their mobile phone and identity card/passport for verification. Fill in the form and sign it.
On the procedure, Tunku Alizakri RM Alias, DiGi's Corporate Affairs director said only prepaid customers of 12 years old and above could register while the parent or guardian would have to register for those below 12.
A prepaid customer cannot register on behalf of others.
Many customers have sent in incomplete forms and, therefore, they could not be registered and among the information missing from these forms are the mobile phone number, address and name.
On the number of lines per customer, Tunku Alizakri said "it is unlimited but a prepaid customer is responsible for the lines he or she registers".
As for dealers who decline registration or impose a registration fee, he said customers could report them to the respective service providers so that necessary action could be taken.
So, hurry! Register your prepaid SIM cards now as after Dec 15 this year, no prepaid SIM cards can be activated without registration regardless who sells it.