The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) on Friday approved Telecom Policy 2015. The previous five years’ policy was formulated in 2003 and was due to be reviewed in 2008. However, due to lack of interest from the previous government, the telecom policy went into the background.
The ECC met with Finance Minister, Ishaq Dar, on Friday to consider the draft Telecom policy submitted by the Ministry of Information Technology.
The meeting was informed that the telecom policy 2015 is an outcome of extensive consultations and conformations with international best practices in which foremost importance has been given to the views of stakeholders to ensure the element of inclusiveness in the policy.
The ECC was informed that the vision articulated in the policy is availability of universal, affordable and quality telecommunication services provided through open, competitive and well managed markets which can be used by people to the benefit of the economy and society.
Anusha Rehman, Minister for IT and Telecom, while speaking with ProPakistani, stated that that there is potential of e-lancing export of US$1 billion and the government wants to achieve this target in a year time.
According to the MoIT spokesperson, the new policy is market-driven, having appropriate regulation, accelerated digitization, universal access, Spectrum, regulatory framework for VoIP and Over the Top (OTT) services, public Wi-Fi hot spots for commercial use.
It is worth mentioning here that just like other policies, the Telecommunication Policy is supposed to get a review every five years according to the need and requirements of the situation but unfortunately, previous governments failed to pay adequate attention to this sector. However, as soon as the incumbent government came into power, it started the process of reviewing and integrating Telecom policies which is nearing completion.
New Telecom Policy includes various new elements like competition framework, spectrum strategy, spectrum sharing, satellite communication, which were not present in earlier policies. It is expected that competition framework will make telecom market more efficient in terms of quality of service and choice of services available to the consumers. Major new element of the new policy relates to provision of a wholesome treatment for frequency spectrum management in the country.
The ECC was further informed that roadmap for achieving convergence on both market and regulatory sides has been provided. Satellite communications and provision of bandwidth and retail broadband and telecoms through this medium have for the first time been addressed to structure and further grow the segment.
Ministry of IT stated that proper business flow under set parameters will provide more clarity to satellite telecoms based businesses while ensuring appropriate compliances. Enhanced and more innovative roles of Universal Service and Research & Development Funds are envisioned which are aimed at ubiquitous development of infrastructure and services across the country and promotion of demand driven and high impact research and innovation development activities in Pakistan.
The Universal Service Fund (USF) will be utilized for provisioning of telephony, internet, broadband services and establishment of tele-centers in underserved and un-served areas. Special projects to cater for specific needs of people related to telecommunication and ICTs will be undertaken.
Provision of broadband access to education institutes and health care institutions is also made part of mandate of USF. Under this policy operators are enabled to deploy Wi Fi hot spots for public use.
Finance Minister appreciated the efforts of the M/o Information Technology for carrying out wide-ranging consultations and developing consensus on the Policy.
He hoped that Telecommunications Policy 2015 will boost the Telecommunications as well as ancillary ICT sector markets spur socio economic development and will act as a catalyst towards achieving knowledge based society with digital inclusion of all segments of our society.
It merits mentioning here that about three months ago, owing to the vague targets and goals regarding financing and licensing, the ECC of the Cabinet had rejected Telecom Policy 2015.
It was then proposed that policy was lacking with respect to sum up targets and goals related to financing and licensing, while the distinction between IT and Telecom was also inappropriate as observed by Secretary Finance Division Dr Waqar Masood.
ECC had remarked that few sections of the draft policy seriously require the suggestions put forward by Finance Division.
Keeping in view the recommendations for reforms, the ECC had then ordered MoIT, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Law and also the Secretary to reconsider the draft policy while giving a deadline of another two weeks to complete the job.