IT Ministry Tells PTA to Update Neutral Tower Regime with $1 Billion Licensing Condition

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The Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication (MoITT) has recommended that the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) organize a new regime of Neutral Tower Co. with the provision of the first right of refusal for such grantees.

Under Section 8(2-a) of the Telecommunication Re-organization Act, 1996 (amended in 2006), the number of licenses will be awarded fee determination by the PTA with a licensing condition to invest $1 billion in infrastructure development within five years from the issuance of such an exclusive license.

Official documents from the MoITT revealed that this regime will be opened by the federal government under the policy directive, besides the existing non-right of refusal licenses.

The price determination of this specific license will be determined under Section 2 of the Telecommunication Re-organization Act, 1996. The number of such licenses, under Section 8 (2-a) of the Telecommunication Re-organization Act, 1996 and Section 5(2-a), is reasonably held dynamic with the proper determination of a relative licensing fee by the PTA (as a condition).

This specific licensing regime will include active and passive infrastructure sharing as well as Open Source, and the licensee may offer active infrastructure as a value-added creation.

Neutral Tower Co. license holders will be obligated to connect the fiber to each tower site. The current Infrastructure Licensees without the Right of Refusal will continue to operate under granted terms and conditions as already specified by the Authority.

In case a Neutral Tower Co. Licensee fails to provide tower sharing infrastructure, it must be communicated to the other service provider within 30 days of such an application.

The provision of tower services by the Tower Co. licensees may be determined on a least-cost or commercial terms basis by the applicant and Tower Co. Company.

In case of a dispute between the two licensees (the Tower Co. Company and the other Applicant Licensee), the PTA will make all efforts to resolve them amicably.

The documents also revealed that the PTA will issue a Regulatory Enforcement Framework for the efficient implementation of tower convergence. The Tower Co. License will be limited to Tower Sharing/Convergence and includes duct and fiber sharing without the provisioning of services. This regime will be treated as an evolved and updated version of the Infrastructure licensing regime already in place and will not affect the functioning of the current Infrastructure Licensees.

The operating model of this new regime will encourage the service providers to focus on service provisioning instead of investing in infrastructure. All the projects developed under the USF are obliged to follow the new regime.

Accordingly, Section 8(2-a) of the Telecommunication Re-organization Act, 1996 (amended in 2006) will be applied, with the duration of the Tower Co. Licensing Regime as twenty years, and failure will lead to revocation of the license after the expiration of the stipulated duration.

Furthermore, the PTA has to grant the license regulatory and rollout framework accordingly under Section (5) of the Telecommunication Re-organization Act, 1996.

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