PTA Issues SOPs for Cross-Border Communication Links

Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has issued Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for establishing Cross Border Bilateral/Transit Communication Links with neighboring countries.

According to the SoP, PTA will grant final/formal approval to operations after

  • Obtaining satisfactory report from the concerned agencies regarding provision of national security,
  • Clearance report from Finance, Commercial Affairs, Licensing and Technical Services Divisions regarding clearance of all outstanding dues
  • Satisfactory inspection report from Enforcement Division, PTA regarding fulfillment of other conditions as contained in PiP
  • Fulfillment of requirements of any new policy for the time being enforced.

Telecom Policy 2015 has mandated Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to facilitate the process for approval/issuance of NOC for establishment of cross border links under Telecom Policy 2015

Scope and Purpose

The purpose of this SOP is to streamline the procedures for establishing cross border bilateral/transit communication links with neighboring countries of Pakistan via terrestrial fixed wireline/wireless or satellite technology.

With these SOPs in place, Pakistani operators will be allowed to deploy cross-border links with neighboring countries.

Move is likely to open new business opportunities for local and regional players as Pakistan has the potential to become the connectivity hub for Central Asian countries.

Eligibility

All Long Distance & International (LDI) licensees, Pakistan Telecommunication Company Ltd. (PTCL) and National Telecommunication Corporation (NTC) are allowed to establish cross border bilateral/transit communication links with neighboring countries of Pakistan via terrestrial fixed wireline/fixed wireless or satellite, under their respective licenses, provided they are in good standing with respect to their license terms and conditions, Act, Rules, Regulations and PTA’s Determinations.

Every eligible licensee intending to establish cross border bilateral/transit communication links with neighboring countries of Pakistan will have to obtain prior approval from PTA.

Application Submission

Operators will be required to submit application to PTA for establishing cross border bilateral/transit communication link with neighboring countries of Pakistan.

Separate applications shall be made if a licensee intends to establish multiple communication links with a country at different locations or via different media.

Every application for cross border link shall include but not limited to the following:

  • Valid Agreement/Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with counterpart in other country
  • Capacity and physical route of the link
  • Type of traffic d. Expected volume of traffic
  • Technical plan along with layouts
  • Location of peering point
  • Financial plan including expected revenue for the next 5 years

Application Processing

PTA said that it will process applications after checking the status of any outstanding dues. If there are any outstanding dues against the applicant licensee then the application shall not be processed further until the dues have been cleared.

After all dues are cleared, applications will be processed with-in six weeks time.

Upon the fulfillment of aforementioned requirements, the proposal will be forwarded to Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) members for evaluation with the approval of the Authority.

Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC)

Ministry of Information Technology & Telecommunication (MoIT&T), Government of Pakistan has constituted an Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) that consist of following members for evaluation to grant approval/NOC or denial of every application/request for establishing cross border bilateral/transit communication links with neighboring countries of Pakistan:

  • Chairman, PTA Convener
  • A Representative from Cabinet Division {Secretary NTISB} Member
  • A Representative from Ministry of IT {Member (Telecom)} Member
  • A Representative from IB {Director General or Director (Tech)} Member
  • A Representative from ISI {Director (ISI)} Member
  • A Representative from Ministry of Interior {Deputy Secretary (Security)} Member

The members of IMC may grant approval/NOC or reject the application and/or provide their input on the proposal or if required a meeting may also be convened by PTA on the proposal, within four weeks after fulfillment of above mentioned requirements and completion of application in all aspects.

All processing of the proposals after the approval from IMC will be carried out by the office of Director General (Licensing), PTA unless there is any change in the proposal in which case approval of the Authority may be required.

Permit in Principle (PiP)

On the receipt of approval/NOC from the IMC members, PTA will initially grant Permit in Principle (PiP) with certain conditions as required by IMC members.

The PiP shall also contain the following conditions:

  • For Wireless Link
    • The licensee shall apply for assignment of radio frequency spectrum to Frequency Allocation Board (FAB) through PTA
    • The licensee shall establish the link(s) within three months from the assignment of radio frequency spectrum by FAB.
    • Provision of facility under the national security provisions shall be ensured by the licensee before the commencement of operation.
  •  For Wireline Link
    • The licensee shall establish the link within a period of three months starting from the issuance of the PiP.
    • Provision of facility under the provisions of national security provisions shall be ensured by the licensee before the commencement of operation and within a period of one year starting from date of issuance of the PiP.
    • The link shall be terminated at a legally established peering point in Pakistan.
    • 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 PTA by the licensee. 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 by the applicant to PTA.
    • Failure to comply with any of the above conditions may result into cancellation of the PiP.
    • Upon fulfilling the above requirements the licensee shall apply for Final Approval

Frequency Assignment

For terrestrial wireless links, the licensee shall apply for assignment of radio frequency spectrum to FAB through PTA after getting PiP for the said link.

The site clearance and other necessary regulatory requirements shall be fulfilled by the licensee before applying for final/formal approval.

Final Words

Till now, the telecommunication operators were allowed to connect Pakistan with outside world through submarine cables only. With these new SOPs in place, operators will be allowed to connect with neighboring countries directly — through fixed-line (land), wireless or satellite technologies.

Technically speaking this new arrangement has got nothing new as communication connections through submarine cables are essentially the same as these new cross-border connections are going to be.

Both types of cables connect Pakistan with a foreign land, but since Pakistan is more concerned, in terms of security, when it comes to our neighboring states (both India and Afghanistan) the new policy has kept additional checks in place to ensure that operators aren’t bypassing any national interests.

With new protocols and legislation in place, Pakistan will have chance to directly connect with neighboring countries including China, Afghanistan, Iran or India.

With new policy in place, Pakistani communication players are now going to get connected with China without any legal challenge. Not to mention, Pakistan is already laying down a fiber cable to connect with China through Khunjrab.

As mentioned above, Pakistan has the potential to become a connectivity hub for Central Asian states, for which this new policy is going to play a landmark role. Through Afghanistan, now Pakistani (and regional) players can offer massive connectivity to land-locked Central Asian states.

 


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