My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: How US$1 Billion is lost from the USF and Telecoms Tax via Inbound International Calling Bypass

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

How US$1 Billion is lost from the USF and Telecoms Tax via Inbound International Calling Bypass

“We are going to be putting in place the technology to audit and to catch them and to terminate those services that they are offering”

Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining Phillip Paulwell at the opening of the McGregor Gardens Community Cyber Vision Café in Kingston last Wednesday April 23rd 2014

Telecom Provider Digicel and LIME are fearing the coming of WhatsApp sometime at the end of June 2014, the Second Quarter of 2014 as predicted in my blog article entitled “WhatsApp VoIP Calling in Second Quarter of 2014 - WhatsApp kills International Calling at the Advent of Facetime-eqsue Premium Video VoIP Calling on smartphones”.

But they have an even more serious long-standing problem that has been bothering them for quite awhile: Illegal Bypass from Inbound International Calling from USA and Canada using LIME and Digicel SIM Cards in unlocked cellphones as stated in “Local telecoms lose over $1b a year to international call bypass”, published Sunday, April 06, 2014 BY SHAMILLE SCOTT Business reporter, The Jamaica Observer.



Their revenue from International Calling as described in my Geezam blog article entitled “How to set up an International Calling Plan for Digicel or LIME Prepaid and Postpaid”, their main Cash-Cow, is set to drop or disappear altogether. Hence they are joining forces to combat this scourge as reported in Digicel, LIME join hands to combat bypass fraud, published Tuesday, June 10, 2014, The Jamaica Observer.

Telecom Providers stand to gain from increased usage of their 3G/4G LTE (Long Term Evolution) Network for VoIP and IM (Instant Messaging) as long ago predicted in my blog article entitled “CTIA reports a 5% decline in US Texting as Instant Messaging ramps up - WhatsApp's now Top Gun as The Dead Zone leads Star Trek Into the Darkness”.

But if they don’t tackle this problem, they stand to lose a whole lot more.

USF and Telecoms Tax – Telecom Providers Funding Community Access Points in Jamaica

It’s so bad, it’s affecting their ability to pay the USF Levy as well as the Telecoms Tax of 2012 as required under their BTA (Bilateral Trade Agreement) and the Telecommunications Act of 2012 as stated in “Phone companies, beware!”, published Monday, April 28, 2014, The Jamaica Observer to the UAFCL (Universal Access Fund Company Limited), which apparently has been renamed the USF (Universal Service Fund).

The USF was set up back in 2005 to collect the following levy:

1.      US$0.03 per minute on inbound international calls terminated on fixed lines
2.      US$0.02 per minute on calls terminated on mobile lines in Jamaica

This is separate and apart from the Telecoms Tax which came into effect on June 2012 as described in my blog article entitled “GOJ taxes Telecom Providers and OUR sets Cross Network and International Calling Rate at JA$5.00 - Data Services Prometheus”.

Rather the USF is closely tied to the GOJ (Government of Jamaica) CDF (Community Developement Fund) and is use mainly to set up the Internet Cafes or Internet Access, called CAP (Community Access Points) in the following facilities to benefit the society:

1.      Secondary schools
2.      Libraries
3.      Post offices
4.      Community Access Points

It is from this fund that the JA$800 million E-Learning Project II to give students JA$5000 Tablets is coming from as stated in my blog article entitled “Ministry of Science and Technology signs four Contractors in March 2014 to procure Tablets - Test Pilot Project in September 2014 means Teachers can monetize e-books”.

These Internet Cafes are actually a part of E-Learning Project I which sees Telecom Provider LIME and Triple Play Provider FLOW providing Internet access to some 300 schools islandwide as described in my blog article entitled “LIME, FLOW and the $JA543-million Internet plan - Ebony and Ivory”.

So folks, you can see that is a VERY serious matter that’s being buried by the Traditional Media.

Hence the reason I’ve chosen to write on this very topic, as it’s gonna come to a boil quite soon when the new Telecom Regulator is set up as predicted in my blog article entitled “OUR to hire Consultant for LRIC Study on Landline - JA$1.49 per minute for Fixed Line and Landline Flat Rate as MNP, LNP Approaches”.

International Calling Bypass – US$1 Billion dollar of Revenue lost from the USF

So how do people make International Calls from USA and Canada in such a way as to be billed as a Local Calls? After all, if you’ve live in the USA of Canada, you’d know that cellphones can only be purchased in one of two (2) ways:

1.      Unlocked and free for use on any Network
2.      Locked to a Network

Locked to a Network here means it’s locked to a specific Telecom Provider. In the case of the US of A, that would be one of the four major Carriers in the US of A, namely:

1.      AT&T
2.      Verizon
3.      Sprint
4.      T-Mobile

For the simplicity of this explanation, I’ll define Unlocked as being Factory Unlocked i.e. completely unlocked to the point that you can place any SIM (Subscriber Identification Module) Card from Any GSM (Global Systems Mobile) Network into your phone.

Please note Unlocked specifically refer to cell phones on a GSM Network i.e. AT&T and T-Mobile. Verizon and Sprint are CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) Networks and unlocking can only be done by the Telecom Provider, as they can only be used on those types of Networks.

A quick read of my blog article entitled “How to unlock any phone and put it on any Network - Guaranteed to unlock any Feature or Smartphone on the Chennai Express” will fresh you memory on the various means by which smartphones and Cellphones can be unlocked.

Telecom Provider Digicel and Telecom Provider LIME are working to stop this problem, as some of the actors involved are local Telecom Companies here in Jamaica with the Technical know-how to make it happen.

Illegal Inbound International Calling – Unlocked GSM cellphones, illegal SIM IMSI and attocells

Thus persons abroad making illegal International Calls from the USA of Canada, in order to use Digicel or LIME SIM Cards in their smartphone, would have to have unlocked GSM cellphones, be they smartphones or regular Feature phones. This then implies that the Illegal Inbound International calls are coming from Telecom Provider AT&T or Telecom Provider T-Mobile Network. They would then place a SIM Card from Telecom Provider Digicel or Telecom Provider LIME to make Calls.

Now, logically, as they are in the US of A of Canada, they’d have to have a Cell Tower from either Telecom Provider Digicel or Telecom Provider LIME in Jamaica in order to make phone calls. This as SIM Cards from Telecom Provider will NOT work on Telecom Provider AT&T or Telecom Provider Digicel.

Remember, Telecom Providers, be they in Jamaica or in the US of A, are able to recognize legitimate members of their Network based on their IMSI (International Mobile Subscriber Identification) Number that coded into their SIM Cards as argued in my blog article entitled “How smartphones are stolen and IMEI changed – Uninformed Jamaican Police Tracking Jamaicans even as GOJ ID Registration by Telecom Providers needed”.

This as evidence by the fact that Unlocked SIM Card are not allowed to work in the US of A, Canada or on Telecom Networks here in Jamaica. This is only true for the Netherlands, the only country in the world that allows for the use of Carrier Unlocked SIM Card in any cellphone as stated in my blog article entitled “The Netherlands makes Carrier Unlocked SIM Cards Legal - Apple's Idea revived heralding M2M and the Internet of Things, a financial Boon to Telecom Providers”.

Making Illegal International Calls from USA and Canada – Femtocells and Attocells

So clearly it suggests that when these persons make phone calls with their unlocked cellphones using a LIME or Digicel SIM Card via a portable Telecom Provider LIME or Telecom Provider Digicel Cell Tower.

This means it’s most likely a device called a Femtocell or Attocell. A Femtocell or Attocell is a mini Base Station that mimics the settings of Telecom Provider Digicel or LIME as stated in my blog article entitled “When in Roam (ing) carry a attocell - SnapDragon and The Tourist”.

Do a quick Google search for “Femtocell” “attocell” or “Mini Base Station” online and you’ll turn up a whole set of companies that specialize in making these Portable products that allows International US and Canadian Travellers to make phone calls that are billed at a Local Rate.

Some of them, on closer examination, sell Femtocell or Attocells as a software package for Laptops or Desktop Computers. It then accesses your Wi-Fi Router and uses the Antenna to put out a Cellular Signal with the right settings to mimic the Telecom Provider.

Then the calls are routed and terminated like a regular Local Call. Based on confidential sources I’ve spoken to in person, it is actually done via the Internet, technically making the Call VoIP, the difference being that the Calls are routed to a Server owned by a Local Telecom Company or Telecom Equiptment Contractor.

The Server owned by that local company then terminates the Calls here in Jamaica where they use Fixed Line phones for either Telecom Provider Digicel or Telecom Provider LIME to complete the Call, making a call from abroad appear to be originating locally. Thus two (2) SIM Cards are involved; one Legitimate from the Fixed Line unit here in Jamaica, most likely hosted at the premesis of the Local Telecom Company or Telecom Equiptment Contractor and the other, an illegal SIM in an unlocked cellphone owned by the person abroad.

Network Engineers making big bucks selling company info – The French Connection

According to my sources, Network Engineers, who are bribed with substantial sums of money working within Telecom Provider Digicel and Telecom Provider LIME, supply the SIM Cards to a local Telecoms Contractor or Telecom Equipment Supplier here in Jamaica along with:

1.      Valid IMSI information for the SIM Cards
2.      Tower ID and Sector ID’s for Cell Towers
3.      Access to MGW (Media Gateway)
4.      VPN (Virtual Private Network) Remote Terminal Access i.e. Logins and Password

They, the Network Engineers, make the changes in the Ericsson’s MINSAT and DWS Databases via Terminal Access at the Central Mobile Switch at Digicel’s MSC (Mobile Switching Center) or LIME MSC as requested and paid for by these local Telecom Equipment suppliers that are involved in this illegal Bypass!


That information is what the Network Engineers are bribed to sell to these local Telecom Equipment suppliers with whom these Network Engineers at Telecom Provider Digicel and Telecom Provider LIME have an arrangement. These local Telecom Equipment suppliers, one of whom I was informed was a Contractor, then sell that information to the makers of the Femtocell or Attocells abroad who then pay them even more money for this information, which changes on a monthly basis.

This explains the reason why CEO of Digicel Jamaica, Barry O'Brien made the statement on the trend of Illegal Bypass from Inbound International Calling from USA and Canada using LIME and Digicel SIM Cards in unlocked cellphones, quote: “Nowadays we can identify certain SIMs that are involved and we shut them down. They are just one step ahead of us and these are quite large sums of money involved here, estimated to be as much as US$1 million per month ($109 million)”.

Dear reader, this is a VERY SERIOUS ongoing problem that involves information that’s changing on a Monthly basis. That information is the IMSI Numbers, which identified each SIM Card in their Network and is refreshed monthly after a few SIM Cards expire after ninety (90) days as explained in my Geezam blog article entitled “The Prepaid Cycle and How Prepaid Credit gives your SIM Card access to the Prepaid Network”.

Each month, however, a Security Audit is done of the Ericsson MINSAT and DWS Databases to ascertain how many of these SIM Cards have expired and thus how many can be recycled back into the pool of usable SIM Cards. According to my source, it is this information along with the information mentioned above that these Network Engineers working at Telecom Provider Digicel and Telecom Provider LIME sell to the Telecom Equitpment Supplier or Contractors involved in this fraud.

Network Engineers Selling Information – Block Google Drive, DropBox, Social Media and Email

So how to stem the problem?

It’s nearly impossible, as this information can be save in Text files and smuggled out using Thumb Drives. If there are restrictions on the use of Thumb Drives, a really clever Network Engineers working at Telecom Provider Digicel and Telecom Provider LIME can create a Dropbox or Google Drive account.

They can then place the information in a Public Folder with a Link for his cronies to retrieve later as described in my blog article entitled “How to share Public Dropbox Folders, allowing Downloads from your Dropbox Account - Sharing is Caring up in the Clouds”.

Alternatively, the Network Engineers working at Telecom Provider Digicel and Telecom Provider LIME can convert the document into a *.PDF file as explained in my blog article entitled “How to Create PDF Documents using PDFCreator” and email it to a legitimate email while BCC (Blind Carbon Copy) the information to another email, assuming that his internal office email allows him to send emails outside of the company!

Increasing Salaries won’t work. Telecom Provider Digicel and Telecom Provider LIME need to lock down their Network Engineers access to critical information, even if it means:

1.      Encrypting their Hard-Drives and associated Files
2.      Block access to Social Media, Email and Google Drive and Dropbox
3.      Making it as such that Right-click Copy and Paste as well as Ctrl-C and Ctrl-V Copying isn’t possible
4.      Making their Workplaces totally Paper-Free i.e. using secured Tablets
5.      Biometric Identification for Computer Terminals running Ericsson’s MINSAT and DWS Databases


If Telecom Provider Digicel and Telecom Provider LIME don’t take these measures, then the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining empowered under the Telecommunications Act of 2012 and their binding BTA’s, Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining Phillip Paulwell can force Telecom Provider to pay up the missing USF Contributions and Telecoms Taxes based on estimated Revenue they should have been receiving from International Calling!
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