Telecom Industry Expresses Concerns on Draft of National Broadband Policy

Cellular Mobile Operators (CMOs) and Internet Services Providers (ISPs) have raised serious concerns over the draft of the “National Broadband Policy.”

The CMOs and Internet services providers, including Jazz, Telenor, Ufone, Zong, PTCL, and NayaTel, have written a joint letter to Dr. Muhammad Sohail Rajput, Secretary Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication (MoITT), and expressed serious concerns on the draft of the National Broadband Policy 2021 – Gap Analysis of 2015 Policy, as their input was not incorporated in the revised draft policy.

According to the letter, the telecom industry, in a joint letter dated 17 January 2022, addressed the Secretary MoITT and emphasized the dire need of hiring a consultant of international repute to run an open consultation process that would allow the industry to interact directly with the consultant.

The telecom industry is thankful for patiently hearing its joint concerns on the National Broadband Policy and taking cognizant of them in a meeting held in February 2022, said the letter.

The participants of the meeting also agreed to submit a brief gap analysis-based paper for the policy already in the field, highlighting the key measures which were supposed to be taken through its provisions but haven’t yet been executed.

Through this letter, the telecom industry elaborated that the requirement of executing the action items prescribed in Telecommunication Policy 2015 and objective GAP analysis by the Consultant before coming up with any new version of the draft of the National Broadband Policy 2021.

The Telecommunication Policy 2015 was prepared through a well-planned consultation process and promised some frameworks and reviews based on specific Policy Guidelines, which are still applicable and may not be subject to “review after 5 years” as a mandatory requirement.

The stakeholders’ comments on subsequent consultations issued by MoITT and PTA have not been considered while coming up with the revised draft of the National Broadband Policy 2021, protested the companies.

According to the letter, the recent MoITT and PTA consultations are also in synchronization with the Telecommunication Policy 2015 whereas the draft has some divergent recommendations. Fresh and comprehensive consultations are required on key Policy Guidelines, especially in the context of proposed WLL sunset/surrender of existing WLL spectrum as there is an ongoing requirement of Fixed Wireless Access (e.g. 5G use cases), which may not be feasible at the cost of spectrum allocation/authorization for mobile services in a conventional way.

In case MoITT still considers it worthy to start the review of the Telecommunication Policy 2015 at the current implementation state, the process followed by MoITT earlier in 2014-15 may be followed which was in line with the industry submissions.

The synopsis of the previous consultation process is as under:

  • Ministry of IT (MoITT) appointed M/S INTERCAI Mondiale, as a consultant for drafting new Telecom Policy in February 2014
  • Consultant sought comments from telecom operators on key aspects of policy and the first draft was shared on 3rd July 2014. Stakeholders shared comments in July-August 2014 accordingly.
  • The second (revised) draft was shared on 1st October 2014 & Stakeholders’ Consultation Workshop (chaired by Minister for IT) was held on 14th &15th October 2014.
  • Operators participated in a workshop as well as provided updated comments in October 2014.
  • MoITT issued the new Telecommunications Policy (NTP) on 12th December 2015 after the approval from the Competent Authority – Key frameworks had a deadline during July-Dec 2016.
  • CMOs, through industry letter dated 27th December 2015 congratulated MoITT and recommended that “consultation process be initiated for devising frameworks formulating task force with the representation of telecom industry to come up with joint recommendations.”
  • 2015 Policy Launch event was organized by MoITT with the support of CMOs & PTCL on 18th January 2016

The telecom industry concluded that the validity of pending Telecommunication Policy 2015 initiatives is evident from the fact that the draft Policy document also added the same action items while postponing pending consultation to a later stage.

The CMOs and Internet services providers requested the MoITT to start the consultation exercise afresh while considering the industry’s input given through the previous correspondence on the subject and the preliminary stocktaking of Telecommunication Policy 2015.

In summary, licensing framework review should have been done as delineated in the 2015 Policy to simplify the licensing regime and remove artificial limitations while moving towards the introduction of 5G services, asked the industry.

The concepts of Service Neutrality, Fixed Mobile Convergence, Spectrum Liberalization, and Infrastructure sharing need discussion with all Public and Private stakeholders for consensus.

The incentives to encourage operators in achieving policy objectives, especially fiscal incentives, should be part of the main policy document for greater assurance for investors; however, the same is not added in the recently issued draft of the policy, claimed the companies.

The telecom industry assured the MoITT of its full cooperation and hoped that any new draft of the National Broadband Policy would consider their recommendations.

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