Skype, WhatsApp, Others Might Soon Need a License to Operate in Pakistan

According to revised Telecom Policy 2015, that has been approved by ECC, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority has been mandated to revise licensing framework for telecommunication services in the country to particularly include selected OTT services into the telecom licensing regime.

Once new licensing framework is finalized by PTA, certain OTT services (WhatsApp, Skype, Facebook etc.) are likely to be asked to obtain license from regulator in order to operate in Pakistan.

Section 5.2.5 of Telecom Policy says:

In developing the new licensing regime interalia the following should be taken into account:

Section 20 of the Telecom Act, and in particular, which over-the-top services should be licensed under a “general authorisation” in which a service provider is deemed to hold a license by virtue of the services that it provides and is then subject to the terms of that general authorisation, which may include national security requirements;

In simpler words, PTA will determine licensing terms for certain OTT services — based on criteria that is yet unknown — and will  make it mandatory for such selected OTT services to get a license before operating in Pakistan.

Moreover, these certain OTT services will be licensed only after they agree to terms (outlined by PTA), which may include national security requirements or lawful interception.

You can download the copy of Telecom Policy of Pakistan (2015) by clicking this link (PDF File – 1.21MB).

It is still unclear that which OTT services would be asked to get the license.

Experts are saying that it is a mindless approach to regulate OTT service for two reasons, i) there’s no way to implement this policy, ii) it will help no one including consumers, telcos, regulator or any other entity.

While we don’t know that which OTT services are going to get regulated under this new policy, experts think that Government is likely to hunt down these communication apps (WhatsApp, Facebook etc.) that are ruling the communication mediums.

PTA will determine licensing terms for certain OTT services and will  make it mandatory for such selected OTT services to get a license before operating in Pakistan

Salman Ansari, who played a key role in developing previous Telecom Policy in 2003, said that no government in world regulates OTT services, simply because there’s no effective way of doing it.

“The moment you block a service, such as you did with YouTube, users will start tunneling through VPNs and proxies it to get it unblocked”, explained Mr. Ansari.

Another expert, who wanted to remain unnamed, said that this seems to be an ambitious effort for bringing OTT services to agree on government’s terms for lawful interception, which wouldn’t be a good idea considering that Pakistan is a third-world country and global internet companies that operate these OTT services wouldn’t even listen to such requests, let alone honor them.

“Blackberry is an example; we saw that how such interception requests backfired and instead of any good caused us more harm in shape of negative press; no one respects such rules”, opined the expert.

Salman Ansari thinks that if government had bothered taking input from relevant stakeholders before drafting this policy, it would have saved itself from national and international embarrassment.

It merits mentioning here that Telecom Policy 2015 has been approved by Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) and is now set to get implemented through new regulations made by respective authorities.

Also Read: An Overview of Telecom Policy 2015

Tech and telecom reporter for over 15 years

  • Myopic view of the IT and the Govt. as always. So what’s new. Ban the internet for once and for all and let’s all go back to the stone ages. It’ll fit in with the mindset. Maybe we’ll evolve in the next 20000 years. But then i doubt it.

      • No they need experts like you with false degrees and are pseudo intellectuals. I wish you learn the positives of technology before commenting and revealing your bigoted and shallow thought process

  • Whatsapp or Skype etc wale pagal han na jo janu manu k lie in jhamelo me parenge, 5% users b koi premium service use ni krte inki to ye q museebat palenge.

  • People are getting it wrong!
    these products are earning too much from people of Pak so they should pay taxes to Pak govt I think its an excellent and clever step !

    • people are getting what was given to them through some controlled media reporting to change their mind and perceptions.

    • Before someone starts backing your flawed thoughts, Sir, this is not the way of getting any taxes from OTT services — simply because you can not. Idea is that you cannot block any OTT service, if you do, then people will use tunnels to bypass any such a blockade.

      • But isn’t this what you really wanted to happen in the first place? By supporting the ban on YouTube, you’ve thus created a paradox which will eventually suck everything that we as internet users expect to use freely without some creep breathing down our necks just because we’re doing something that’s nobody else’s god damn business, that too in the privacy of our own homes ???

      • Okay, Very nice, Why don’t you write an article which explains how OTT companies are operating ?

      • Agreed. Same happend by blocking youtube. PTA should think wisely. Nice point Aamir.

  • No gov regulate OTT services is a blullshit
    what happen with BB is their choice and whatever international media reports is way better than our controlled media and bogus or paid loyalties by some persons.

      • Allah na kare Asif bhai dushmani kaisi? Ap ko kabhi koi baat budi lagi ho tu mazrat dost. Please aap mujhe maaf kardo, aakhirat ki pakar badi mushkil hia…

        • hahah nahee KMQ bhai bas kabhi kabhi online shopping websites per hum ler perty hai na :)

          • nahi nahi sir, woh larai nahi. That is just difference of opinion, aapki apni raee meri apni raee. Is main larne aur dushmani wali koi baat nahi :-)

        • Nice to see you always and wish to see with some good words for online websites some day :)

          • Same here bhai, bas us waqt buda lagta hai jab online shopping ki sites fake marketing karti hain. Woh cheez aur prices promote karte hain jo actual main hote nahi hain. Khair koi dhang ki offer dey tu why not praise, koi online-shopping ke against thodi na hon main :-)

  • Pichla Minister to sirf Mobile ka shutdown karta tha ye govt to internet ko hi band kar rahi hai. Lagta hai ye log apni baizati type cheez ko bachanay ke liye ochay hathkanday istemal karnay par a gaya hein ye IT ke GULU Butt hein L.

  • Whatsapp does not charge a penny to Pakistani customers. After this step, get your credit cards ready to pay for your whatsapp annual subscription. Coz whatsapp wont be keeping their service free for us.

    • which era do you live in ??? i am paying to whatsapp myself and many of my friendx who changed their contact numbers are getting the same treatment

      • Everytime our subscription approaches its last date, it is automatically extended for another year FREE OF COST. If you’re paying un-necessarily you’re the one who’s not upto date with their era.

        Whatsapp is free for almost all developing and under-developed countries. It charges to only developed countries customers.

  • Simple reason is that govt isn’t earning much from mobile phone bills. So they want to stop these free call services.

  • i think now i should subscribe to hotspot shield elite for year because PTA gonna ban everything they could !!!!

  • Government wants to copy China in controlling everything, but never had capacity to build Great Wall of China firewall and Monitoring tools.

    Every government has right to control any service in its borders, but unlike China ( WeChat) Japan (Line) we never had any local company to introduce an OTT local version

    Brain and Time and Enegy required on these type of projects and Govt is Totally Farigh on this

  • people get it wrong. services like Skype, viber, facebook are ban in many countries due to security reasons. if govt. wants to regulate them, then I don’t see anything wrong in it. when u operate in a country, u should follow the rules of the land. these techy kids are so much obsessed with the virtual communication that they feel like their breath will stop if it got restricted.

  • Such step really badly hurt such free facilities, I think an FIR Case should be given extend to require information from Whatapp, Skype, Viber but we knew how our Security Agencies using such facilitates for their own interest. what i assume we can not leave the factor of criminal element in our Police who can misuse such access on name of National Security.

  • Pakistan has intensive OFC network. Now is the time for Pakistan to have its own intranet so that emails within Pakistan are sent through Pakistani system and save billions of dollars annually. Secondly all these OTT companies must get license to operate in Pakistan.It should not be free. Pakistan can earn billions of dollars. Thirdly, sms is not being taxed. PTA should charge at least 10 paisa per sms. In our financial crises, we need FE.

  • اگر یو ٹیوب کو بھی لائسنس لینا پڑے گا تو کم از کم اس پر سے پابندی تو ہٹ جائے گی۔

  • جب جاہلوں کے ہاتھ میں اس قسم کے اختیارات آئیں گے تو اس قسم کے فیصلوں کی امید رکھنی چاہیئے۔ ان جہلاء کو ہم نے ہی منتخب کیا ہے۔ ووٹ دینے پہلے یہ سب کچھ سوچا ہوتا کہ ہم کن لوگوں کے ہاتھوں میں اختیارات دے رہے ہیں تو آج اس طرح کے حالات نہیں ہوتے۔ وہ لوگ جو موبائل بھی صحیح سے استعمال کرنا نہیں جانتے وہ انٹرنیٹ کے فیصلے کررہے ہیں۔ آپ سب مزید اس قسم کے احمقانہ فیصلوں کی امید رکھیں اور پھر اگلے الیکشن میں بھی انہی لوگوں کو منتخب کریں۔

  • PTA should be banned. En logon k pas demag hi nahee hai. XiaoMi jese brand ko ban kerdia ab en apps k pichy pergye hai.

  • We are damn sure after some time, we will be listening ring tones on nokia 3310.

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