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CITC wants exit visa to deactivate mobile SIM card

Saudi Arabia’s telecom regulator said yesterday that it would ask mobile phone operators to inactivate chips of expatriates leaving the Kingdom on exit-only visas as part of its efforts to prevent misuse of the facility.
The Saudi Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) said it was planning to adopt a number of resolutions aimed at preventing the sale of chips without taking identification of their owners.
The move comes after CITC noticed that some expatriate workers were selling mobile chips in the name of foreigners who have already left the Kingdom.
This is one of the reasons for the rapid growth of the cell phone black market in the country, especially after the CITC insisted that recharge of cell phones should be linked with the identification number of users.
The CITC made this system obligatory for security, social and economic reasons after it noticed the presence of a large number of unidentified chips, which could be used for different purposes.
Sultan Al-Malik, spokesman of CITC said his organization would cooperate with the Interior Ministry and the National Data Center while dealing with matters related to telecom services in the country.
“The cooperation of all parties to put an end to unidentified chips is essential,” Al-Malik said, adding that mobile phone service operators in the Kingdom have started implementing the linkage of recharge with identification number last Thursday.
Mobile phone users must enter their national ID or iqama number in order to recharge or transfer credit to other mobile users. Shops selling mobile phones have started disposing of a large quantity of unregistered pre-paid SIM cards following the CITC decision.
Authorities, who were previously unable to track the owner of the SIM cards, hoped the new measure will prevent the abuse of the Kingdom’s mobile phone services.
According to one telecom market source, there are millions of unidentified SIM cards in the country. These are leftovers by the pilgrims or given to others by expatriates after leaving the country on final exit visas.
One telecom shop owner praised the CITC for taking the new decision saying it would prevent people from taking advantage of the anonymity of unregistered cards offered and from using these cards for various crimes.
Most mobile shops have strictly implemented the CITC decision. A warning has been placed on all mobile phone retailers, which included a list of the consequences of violating the decision. This included confiscation of phones and cards, closure of the shop and deportation of expatriate workers.
Mobile phone service providers have been told that they should not activate a prepaid SIM card before verifying and validating the personal information of the purchaser.
The decision mandates the service provider to re-program its systems to ensure refusal of a SIM card recharge unless the user enters his ID number followed by the recharge number, and the system verifies that the ID number entered matches the ID number provided by the user at the time of SIM purchase.
“We’ll continue to take all necessary actions and decisions that will stop violations or limit the negative effects pertaining to the improper use of communications and information technology services,” Al-Malik said.

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