Security agencies have asked the department of telecommunications (DoT) to direct telecom service providers to use domestically manufactured SIM cards only. The intelligence bureau (IB) fears that foreign agencies can misuse SIM cards to track activities of telecom users.
“DoT is separately dealing with the issue of import of SIM cards in consultation with the MHA,” the note said. “A meeting was held with the telecom service providers for indigenisation of SIM cards.”
According to DoT estimates, about 70% SIM cards are manufactured in India and the rest imported. IB fears that such imported SIM cards may be infected with malware programmes, using which users may be tracked and their activities monitored, which would be useful for foreign intelligence agencies or terrorist outfits.
IB says the telecom service providers should be directed to “personalise” SIM cards in India. Personalisation is the process by which user data is recorded in the SIM card using a software. Relecom companies outsource this process to overseas companies, which is what has the IB worried.
“It was intimated by the telecom service providers that the present tax regime is not conducive for domestic manufacturing of personalised cards in India. Accordingly, DoT is taking up the issue of rationalisation of tax structure with the department of revenue. The matter is under process.”
“We have suggested imposition of tax on import of SIM cards. We expect that this will be taken by the government in the budget,” said a DoT official.