International incoming traffic that amount to over 1.9 billion minutes per month before ICH reached its lowest level of 400 million minutes after ICH, and a whooping difference of 1.5 billion international incoming minutes per month were terminating in Pakistan through grey traffic while a small portion of this was coming through OTT services (such as Viber, Skype), revealed Anusha Rehman, State Minister for Telecom and IT, during a press briefing at PTA headquarters.
Ms. Anusha revealed that legal international traffic that used to land in Pakistan before ICH halved with-in one month after the establishment of ICH, while remaining half of international traffic shifted immediately to grey telephony channels.
“ICH policy, that was issued by MoIT in August 2013, created a cartel that essentially reversed the vision behind deregulation of telecom industry of Pakistan and whole market was taken back to pre 2003 era”, said Ms. Anusha Rehman.
Moreover, as a result of ICH policy, the minimum rate for international incoming traffic was set at Rs. 9 (US 8.8 cents), meaning that there could be no international call below this rate. In fact the cost of one single minute reached around Rs. 14 to Rs. 18 per minute, added the Minister.
This whole situation resulted into increased grey traffic (almost 1.4 billion minutes per month) while legal voice traffic dropped down to one fourth of pre-ICH time that impacted the revenues of cellular operators and the government alike, said Ms. Anusha Rehman.
“MoIT wanted to put an end to this dirty business of LDI operators and decided to take the case to Supreme Court for once and for all, where the stay was vacated and now ICH policy is gone forever”, Anusha Rehman
Anusha Rehman also revealed due to all above mentioned scenario Saudi Arabia cancelled the legal contracts with Pakistan and all legal voice traffic coming to Pakistan from Saudi Arabia stopped.
While government wanted to reduce the grey traffic, nothing was going in right direction. Even US 30 million dollar equipment to detect grey telephony wasn’t helping in reduction of grey traffic.
Minister, during the briefing, said that considering all the consequences of ICH policy and challenges associated with it, government annulled the policy in June 2014.
14 LDI operators lead by PTCL, who had vested interest in increased international rates, wanted to drag the case in courts just as a delaying tactic to continue charging high rates from overseas Pakistanis for as long as they could. For the purpose, LDI operators appealed several times in the courts to get stay orders, and if one court vacated the stay, they went to another court to get the relief.
“But we wanted to put an end to this dirty business of LDI operators and decided to take the case to Supreme Court of Pakistan for once and for all, where the stay was vacated and now ICH policy is gone forever”, said Anusha.
Consequently, a new determination was issued by PTA in which APC was slashed to Zero (which was previously at 2.9 cents per minute). This cut down in APC completely removed any incentive for grey traffic, while AAR and ASR is also deregulated; meaning that telcos/LDI operators can charge international traffic whatever they want to.
Ms. Anusha specifically emphasized that call rates to Pakistan will decrease now and overseas Pakistanis will be biggest beneficiary of this development.