Telecom Industry of Pakistan, that won global appreciation and awards for its dynamic growth, is at a standstill these days because there’s no policy or regulatory work being approved by the country’s telecom regulator. There are tens of projects that are either being delayed or not approved because the officials probably think that by not approving anything, they staying on the safe side since “No Work means No Mistakes”.
Telecom operators, new investors, upcoming services or anything that could bring a positive change in the industry has gone on a halt as the regulator is not approving files as it used to in the past.
The major reason behind all this is the hard hammer on PTA officials in an alleged scam that revolves around dozens of officials from the PTA and MoIT.
If insiders are to be believed, PTA and MoIT are saying NO to pretty much everything that’s coming their way. The officials believe that there’s no point in approving even legitimate things if NAB will just raise questions down the line.
They think that no work will mean there’s no room for mistakes or, ultimately, NAB investigations in the future.
While this could be a good strategy to avoid NAB’s wrath, the situation is depressing for the members of the telecom sector who have been waiting for months for approvals.
If you are wondering how the “No Work, No Mistake” strategy came into existence, it all began after NAB opened an investigation against several PTA and MoIT officials for alleged corruption in the auction of 3G and 4G licenses.
The corruption is mainly attributed towards the 4G license of Warid — which NAB thinks was illegal and possibly involves kickbacks.
The team, that awarded the NOC to Warid for the deployment of its 4G network on a spectrum that Warid bought in 2004 for 2G, says that Warid’s spectrum is “technology neutral” and that they had no legal way of stopping Warid from deploying its 4G network.
This means that Warid bought a spectrum in 2004 and deployed 2G network (GSM) while using the technology neutral spectrum and then in 2014 it deployed 4G on the same spectrum since the license issued to Warid clearly read that the spectrum was technology neutral and that the license holder could deploy any technology while remaining within the allotted spectrum.
NAB, on the other hand, is of the view that technology neutrality for Warid’s spectrum meant all available technologies in 2004 (when the license was awarded) and not any technology that could have been introduced in future.
The PTA team that awarded the NOC to Warid says that there’s no such future proofing mentioned in Warid’s License and that whatever happened is strictly as per the books and law.
While there’s a clear discrepancy in how both the parties are interpreting the law, NAB has the upper hand as it can arrest the officials and put them behind bars. This will immediately trigger media houses and a bad press with taglines “3G aur 4G auction main Arboon rupay ki corruption ka inkishaaf” will take over everything else.
If sources are to be believed, such time is not far as NAB is reportedly preparing to arrest former Chairman PTA, former member PTA and some other officials of the regulator to probe into the matter.
While telecom industry widely believes that the PTA team — that auctioned 3G and 4G license in 2014 — did a remarkable service to the industry and the nation, NAB is all set to throw the telecom industry back to stone age and an India-like scandal is in the making, which will take Pakistan’s telecom sector to its deathbed.