Pakistan with its geo-strategic position has the lowest number of undersea cables in the region, thus placing at a disadvantage in regional telecom markets.
Currently there are 6 submarine cables connecting two landing stations in Pakistan namely:
- SEA-ME-WE 3
- SEA-ME-WE 4
- SEA-ME-WE 5
In 14 years only 5 additional undersea cables were connected to Pakistan.
It was expected that with the deregulation of LDI sector the number of undersea cables would increase to meet the ever increasing demand of data services and to provide redundancy and provision of cross-country connectivity to neighboring countries. However, Multinet is the only LDI operator which is in the process of establishing SRG-I at Gwadar.
With the announcement of Telecom Policy 2015, PTA, as the sector regulator is entrusted with successful implementation of the tasks specified under broad objectives and definite targets.
Under the Policy, current licensing regime will continue to apply. However, PTA will conduct an assessment of market absorption capacity. Any new licensing in Long Distance & International (LDI) sector will be subject to an assessment.
PTA says that over time, the performance of LDI sector has failed to meet the desired expectations. This is because of a lack of development of necessary infrastructure. However, the strength of the sector cannot be underestimated as it holds a number of opportunities for existing as well as potential LDI operators.
Therefore, PTA is of the view that further licensing may bring investments for establishment of an OFC network, undersea cables and cross boarder connectivity.
PTA has asked all stakeholders to give their feedback on the issues highlighted below.
The following issues are being circulated to the industry for consultation so that they can be incorporated in the new LDI license:
- New LDI licensee will deploy a minimum of 8,000 kms of OFC as per ITU standards throughout Pakistan within eight years. Furthermore, 25% of OFC will be deployed in un-served and under-served areas.
- New LDI licensee at its own or through a consortium of LDI(s) would be required to participate in new undersea submarine cable(s) to establish new landing point(s) other than Karachi within ten years.
- New LDI licensee would set up cross-border link with at least one country within 5 years of issuance of license.
- New LDI applicants will be required to acquire new LL licenses for at least two under-served LL regions as mandated by PTA with at least 400 subscribers in each region.
- New license conditions would be applicable on existing LDI licensees upon their renewal.