By Aamir Attaa and Amin Yusufzai
Telecom Policy 2015, that was approved by ECC just today, is aimed at attainment of an all-embracing national agenda and to transform Pakistan into an economically vibrant, knowledge-based, middle-income country by 2025. A closer look at approved document hints that policy has covered a wide range of issues, challenges, opportunities and incentives for the telecom sector.
Specific expectations of the policy include
- Universally available, affordable and quality telecommunication services,
- Open, competitive, and well managed markets,
- Ubiquitous adoption,
- the benefit to the economy and society.
Below are six principles that are basis of the policy and the regulatory mechanism to be developed under the new Telecom Policy of Pakistan:
- Market driven
- Appropriate regulation
- Forward looking
- Accelerated digitization
- Universal access
- Government intervention where necessary.
Below are few of the areas that were newly added or upgraded from previous Telecom Policy.
According to new policy, separate competition rules for Telecom Industry will be developed by MoIT, after which all competition related matters of the telecommunications sector will be governed by these new Telecom Competition rules.
It is still unclear that who will get these rules implemented, however, PTA is going to get mandate for regulating at least some of the functions that are currently managed by Competition Commission of Pakistan.
The current licensing regime will continue to apply. Separate category in class licenses regime associated with satellite services will be introduced. However, PTA will conduct bi-annual assessment of market absorption capacity and any new licensing in LL, LDI and WLL sectors will be subject to such assessment.
According to new Telecom Policy, MoIT in consultation with PTA will review the licencing policy before the end of 2016 to see if there’s any change required in the framework.
Policy said that any new licensing policy may require over-the-top services (mobile apps) to get “general authorization” in order to operate in the country. This “general authorization” may require OTT services to agree on terms — that will defined by PTA — including any national security requirements.
Any future licensing policy might require separate licensing for spectrum and operations, new licensing requirements for satellite services, WiFi networks, telecom services for maritime and aviation uses etc.
Termination or transfer of a telecom business
In case of any telecom business transfers or exits (merger or acquisitions), PTA on top of CCP, will evaluate the buyer to see if it fulfills the criteria of license that it will be acquiring.
Along with, PTA will also ensure that any pending fees, charges or outstanding payments are cleared before approvals are granted.
Single Mobility for LL Licensees
Under this new policy, any services from Local Loop companies will have to be fixed in nature and they cannot offer mobility for any services, including internet.
Meaning that, LL companies can offer telecommunication services — of any kind — to consumers but with fixed geographical limits, usually with-in the coverage of single tower or BTS.
With this new rule, PTCL will be disallowed to offer mobility features to its wireless internet (EVO) services.
VoIP and other Over-the-Top (OTT) services
PTA, in consultation with Federal Government and stakeholders, will develop appropriate regulatory framework to allow VoIP and other Over-The-Top (OTT) services, that were so far — by rules — not allowed in the country.
The framework will take account of the possibility that service providers offering such services may preferably install equipment in Pakistan where possible, the rapidity of development of such services, the extensive range of such services, the potential requirements for scarce resources (e.g. numbers), requirements for access to emergency services, requirements for lawful interception, cooperation with law enforcement agencies, data retention obligations on operators, impact on operator networks, and where appropriate, the requirement for interconnection with the equivalent embedded or OTT.
New framework might also address and incorporate revenue sharing arrangements between local licensees (telcos for instance) and OTT players (WhatsApp, Skype, Viber etc), for offering differentiated version of the services (free and paid) so that licensed businesses could enter into mutual agreements with OTT service providers to monetize OTT service delivery on mutually agreed terms.
Peering and exchange points
Internet and other data traffic will be exchanged within Pakistan using local peering or exchange points as far as it is possible to do so, recognizing that the use of international peering points in other countries imposes an unnecessary cost burden and a potential security risk.
PTA will take appropriate measures in consultation with stakeholders to encourage establishment of local peering and exchange points of IP traffic on legally established gateways in Pakistan
Cross border point to point (bilateral) links
LDI licensees will be eligible for establishing cross border communications links with other countries. Such links may be established using fixed wireline, terrestrial wireless, submarine cables or satellite technologies subject to approval by PTA and if necessary, by relevant authorities in the neighboring country, based on the following criteria:
- Any bilateral links will be terminated at a legally established peering point or landing station in Pakistan.
- Prior approval will be obtained for any spectrum used from FAB in Pakistan and the relevant regulatory authority of the neighbouring state where the cross border link terminates.
- The ITU prescribed regime will be used for cross border interference protection in relation to any wireless communication to prevent interference on both sides of the border by FAB.
- Prior approval will be obtained for any proposed use of satellite communication by respective operators from relevant authorities.
- If on the onward route, the communications link is to be part of any international cable system, the details and legal arrangements of such participation will be made available to the PTA by the applicant. In such a case, a clear roadmap for establishing connectivity with a credible International Partner Consortium at a well-established Point of Presence at the far end will be provided.
- All security related requirements (e.g. LI compliance) as specified by the PTA in consultation with the security agencies will be complied with.
Long distance carriers will be allowed to enter into international transit agreements with operators from other countries subject to approval by PTA on a case by case basis
If traffic through the bilateral link is to be transited out of Pakistan both on forward and reverse link, clear declaration of the entry and exit points and the size/capacity of the interfaces at such entry and exit points, is required to be made available by the Pakistani LDI licensee involved.
Provision of public Wi-Fi hot spots based on international standards will be allowed for commercial use. Backhaul for public Wi-Fi hot spots will be provided by a fixed network operator where such services are available.
Mobile operators wishing to provide public fixed or limited mobility Wi-Fi services to their own customers may do so under a commercial arrangement with a fixed network operator.
Wi-Fi offloading of Mobile traffic to a Wi-Fi node linked to a mobile network or to a WiFi hot spot linked to a fixed network may be undertaken by mobile licensees.
PTA will ensure that consumer protection and other regulatory arrangements that apply to ISPs more generally apply to Wi-Fi hot spots.
Right of Way for Telecom and Back-haul Infrastructure
New Telecom Policy says that a coordinated and effective mechanism will be developed for expeditious treatment of rights of way.
Fast track processes associated with the provision of rights of way including space on land and on/ in buildings for the installation of telecommunications infrastructure will be introduced.
As per Telecom Policy 2015, MoIT will act as middle-man between telecom operators and other relevant Ministries, Provincial Governments and the Council of Common Interest (CCI) and agencies that have rights of way oversight, including those responsible for electrical power, gas, and water transmission/ distribution and sewage to determine the requirement for a common approach to the provision and coordination of all rights of way.
Depending on the outcome of such consultation, MoIT, in consultation with PTA and stakeholders, will develop a new framework.
PTA, as per the Law, will have the responsibility to implement this framework.
The framework will include, but will not be limited to:
- Standard processes for granting rights of way;
- Arbitration processes;
- Responsibilities for granting rights of way;
- An outside plant code for roads and footpaths to ensure ducts and access points;
- Formulae for reasonably pricing rights of way as required by the Act with the aim of
- Providing a uniform charging mechanism in line with the decision already taken by the Inter Provincial Coordination Committee of the Government of Pakistan applicable to all government organisations including cantonments and areas administered by Defence organisations
- Encouraging site sharing by way of levying no additional charges on sharing a site
Policy said that this new framework will be developed before July 2016.
Telecommunications and National Disaster Management
Under the Telecom Policy, a National Disaster Telecommunications Plan for the provision and use of telecommunications services before, during and after a national disaster will be formulated.
This plan will include a list of critical telecommunications elements to be available at times of emergency. Terminal devices connecting to telecommunication networks will need to be traceable within a reasonable distance of actual location to facilitate the provision of emergency services.
Plan will require operators to have processes in place for reconfiguration of their networks in an event of a disaster.
For the purpose, PTA, in conjunction with the NDMA and in consultation with licensees, will develop regulations that have to be followed when a regional or national emergency has been declared by GoP or a Provincial Government in the legally required manner to promulgate the Plan.
In order to maintain and test the plan, PTA in conjunction with NDMA may periodically require licensees to participate in national exercises to test overall disaster management processes and plans.
(Internet) Content Management
According to new Policy, PTA is required to manage content over the internet through integrated licenses or ISPs as per their licensing conditions under the Act.
Federal Government (MoIT) recommended to the GoP to authorize PTA to determine the characteristic of content irrespective of the channel used for its supply. PTA will have to consider the characteristics of each channel in determining how to manage its content which it will do under a well defined framework.
This framework will enable PTA to monitor and manage content including any blasphemous and pornographic material in conflict with the principles of Islamic way of life as reflected in the Objectives Resolution and Article 31 of the Constitution, material viewed as leading to the exploitation or abuse of children or other vulnerable groups, and material that is considered to be a direct incitement to commit a crime of a serious nature and detrimental to national security, or any other category stipulated in any other law.
The framework would nevertheless protect the right to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19 of the Constitution subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by the Constitution and the law and cover public networks.
The Federal Government (MoIT) will prescribe rules for Lawful Interception (LI) as mandated under Telecommunication Act.
In the light of these rules, a framework will be prepared jointly by PTA and authorized agencies/organizations of the GoP.
The rules will consider inter alia:
- Mechanism for provisioning, maintenance, upgradation and expansion of LI facilities.
- Possibility of joint provisioning of LI facilities by Licensees.
- Provision for multi-stakeholder forum in the Federal Government (MoIT) to review and recommend adjustments in LI mechanisms and incidental regulatory adjustments.
Policy Review and Implementation
Government might review this policy after five years, depending on market and other developments. Midstream policy requirements will continue to be addressed through appropriate policy directives.
Download Approved Telecom Policy
You can download the copy of approved Telecom Policy of Pakistan from ProPakistani by clicking this link. (PDF File – 1.2MB)