06 February 2012

PTA needs to Stop SMS Spamming

Daily many mobile phone users in Pakistan receive promotional messages from different sources. Their inbox is flooded by such messages and they don’t have an option to stop receiving these messages. This is in addition to the fraudulent text messages and calls that the users receive. Telecom sector is one of the most profitable sectors in Pakistan. Despite this, cellular companies and Pakistan Telecommunication authority (PTA) has not done anything substantial to solve this problem.

First cellular company in Pakistan was launched in 1995. The real boom in Cellular sector came in 2004-05. The trend of having a mobile phone became must for every citizen. Availability of low cost mobiles and service provider SIMs made it possible for every section of society to own a mobile phone. Since then there has been steady growth in number of cell phone users. Today according to PTA statistics over 62 percent of Pakistani citizens use cell phones. It is a very cheap and convenient way of communication, specially the short messaging service (SMS). All these benefits have brought some demerits as well which still haunt cell phone users. Criminal minded people began to deceive people by use of fake calls and SMS. Many simple persons fell victim to their evil traps and suffered monetary losses. PTA and network providers only delivered some public service messages and did not carry out any practical steps to stop and apprehend the criminals.

Now there has been an increase in marketing SMS. People are often sent messages which they don’t want to receive, which means its Spam. Since everyone has a cell phone, SMS marketing has become a very cheap and effective method of marketing for many businesses. There are Softwares available in market which can be used to send thousands of text messages for few hundred rupees in seconds. This sort of marketing is much cheaper than placing Ads in newspapers or in TV channels. Receivers of such messages don’t have a choice of not receiving such messages. It has become a very serious problem. Similarly phone calls are made at random to promote a particular product.

Many private education institutes in Lahore use SMS Spamming to promote the release of their new batches. They send the messages to all the numbers they are able to retrieve from different databases. Quite often users give their cell numbers online on websites and also in education expos and other programs. Somehow these lists containing thousands of cell phone numbers of potential customers reach the hands of Spammers and then no one can stop them. PTA started a service through which users can report SMS spamming by sending a SMS at 9000 with certain details. This service doesn’t seem to work and it’s quite complicated. A person can keep on trying but He will receive error messages only.

PTA needs to stop SMS spamming. They need to develop a mechanism through which users can easily report and prompt action should be taken immediately. Now PTA has started allotting Names instead of numbers from which SMS are sent. Mostly these Names are used for spamming. So PTA should ensure that these will not be used for spamming before allotting such Names to anyone. Cellular companies should also develop their systems to detect the spammers and block their connections. Similarly government should ensure the privacy of the users so that the spammers don’t get bulk of numbers to whom they can send their promotional messages.

Annually PTA and cellular companies earn millions of dollars from cell phone users in Pakistan. They ought to take care of the users and should not let them at the mercy of the spammers, who don’t have any morality to stop doing this by themselves. Cell phone users especially the youth need to be vocal about this issue and should raise voice about it in social media. In Pakistan government will only take action when citizens build up pressure against it. Media should also take notice of the issue and urge the PTA to stop SMS spamming.

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