Gov’t mulls SIM card registration, says CICT chief

MANILA – Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CICT) Chairman Ivan John E. Uy has disclosed that the government is studying the compulsory registration of the subscriber identification module (SIM) cards of cellular phone users nationwide for security concerns.

According to him, SIM card registration is mandatory in other countries such as Italy, China, the United States, Great Britain and the Netherlands.

It is not an easy thing to do because of the costs involved, but definitely, that’s one of the areas the Aquino administration is looking at because the replacement of SIM cards by some people on their cellular phones is being abused, Uy said.

“The non-registration of SIM cards is causing a lot of problems to a lot of people. It’s allegedly used by criminal elements in their illegal activities,” Uy said.

Uy, a known cyber law expert who has distinguished himself in the academe as professorial lecturer of various universities, said the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) and telecom companies (telcos) are already discussing the proposal.

A SIM card contains its unique serial number, internationally unique number of the mobile user (IMSI), security authentication and ciphering information, temporary information related to the local network, a list of the services the user has access to and two passwords (PIN for usual use and PUK for unlocking).

The SIM card allows users to change phones by simply removing the SIM card from one mobile phone and inserting it into another mobile phone or broadband telephony device.

SIM cards are available in three standard sizes. The first is of the size of a credit card (85.60mm × 53.98mm x 0.76 mm).

The newer, most popular miniature version has the same thickness, but has a length of 25mm and a width of 15mm, and has one of its corners truncated (chamfered) to prevent mis-insertion.

The newest incarnation known as the 3FF or micro-SIM has dimensions of 15mm × 12mm. Most cards of the two smaller sizes are supplied as a full-sized card with the smaller card held in place by a few plastic links; it can easily be broken off to be used in a device that uses the smaller SIM.

The first SIM card was made in 1991 by Munich smart card maker Giesecke & Devrient, which sold the first 300 SIM cards to Finnish wireless network operator Radiolinja.

A database of the country’s over 80 million mobile phone users, which include their names, contact numbers and other personal details, can be an effective tool to prevent terror attacks like Tuesday’s bombing in Makati City, Uy said.

If the mandate for the registration SIM cards is approved, Uy said it could help law enforcers prevent bombings or other forms of terror attacks.

The NTC originally proposed SIM registration in the year 2000, when the country only had two million cellular phone subscribers. This was meant as a deterrent to mobile phone theft and other crimes using mobile phones.

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