GoP is Set to Put in Place Regulatory Framework for IoT

The government is all set to put in place regulatory framework for Internet of Things (IoT) as its potential impact on individuals and businesses, raises regulatory requirements such as licensing, numbering and addressing, spectrum management, network standards, data protection, privacy and security, says Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA).

According to ITU, the IoT can be viewed as a global infrastructure for the information society, enabling advanced services by interconnecting (physical and virtual) things based on existing and evolving interoperable information and communication technologies (ICT).

GOP is Set to Put in Place Regulatory Framework for IoT

The Strategy and Development Division of PTA has stated that IoT is the fastest-growing phenomena worldwide with certain countries having implemented it with light-touch regulations. With the rapid growth in demand and use cases of IoT, it is foreseen that in the coming 10-15 years, IoT will saturate into all dimensions of human lives and will have an impact on the industry and the economy at large. As IoT is NOT about which protocol or which platform or which cloud is used, however, it is about sharing the information among different systems, different applications, and different business sectors.

 The Authority further stated that it is vital to have a regulatory framework in place, well in time, for IoT so that complete benefits of this innovation can be passed on to the citizens. The stepwise growth of this sector will demand cross-sector policies and a comprehensive regulatory framework. The deployment of IoT systems in multiple sectors, and their potential impact on individuals and businesses, raise regulatory requirements such as licensing, numbering and addressing, spectrum management, network standards, QoS, data protection, privacy and security etc. Such requirements can be sector-specific or cross-sector in nature.

 Therefore, Government/regulator has a major role to play in shaping market rules for convenient and smooth IoT adoption, such as appropriate licensing /registration and industry/business-friendly regulations etc. The focus of the Authority is to have an enabling and comprehensive regulatory framework to create sustainable IoT development and associated deployments. Moreover, regulatory guidelines are also needed to be set forth for data collection, data analysis, data sharing, use of IoT data, data privacy, data security etc. In addition, rules are required to be established about liability and ownership, for all the sectors.

 Currently, the regulatory frameworks for IoT services are in their early stages worldwide, with very few countries formalizing any specific roadmap. The issues and challenges while formulating regulatory framework involve licensing, spectrum and management of licensed as well as unlicensed bands, numbering plan, permanent roaming, quality of service, security, privacy, data protection, which are dealt in this paper. 

 The Authority has sought comments and views of the members of the PTA, Industry Working Group on IoT, the concerned industry and the general public, on this issues and challenges of IoT for the formulation of the regulatory framework for the country.  

 In Pakistan, international & national ICT firms are in early stages of developing innovative services using IoT technology. Some of IoT use cases include advanced metering infrastructure with automated meter reading on real-time or near-time two-way communication, smart devices /sensors / actuators, smart farming, health care solutions, smart grids and connected agriculture. Most of such applications are currently being provided through cellular networks. However, there is a need to formulate a comprehensive regulatory framework elaborating requirements for developments of IoT ecosystem in licensed as well as unlicensed bands. Some of the frequency bands for unlicensed IoT have been proposed by the Frequency Allocation Board (FAB).

 The Ministry of Information Technology & Telecommunications (MoIT&T) in Section 3(iii) of Telecom Policy-2015 has emphasized on forward-looking to the provision of the new services using the latest technologies.

 Later the Policy Directive of Ministry of IT on test and development of 5G dated October 16, 2017, had identified few bands for 5G and also required, to recommend, in consultation with industry/stakeholders, the suitable frequency bands in view of future technologies.

 In view of this and also keeping into consideration the latest trends of IoT and 5G, PTA has created an industry working group. The aim of this working group is primarily to:  a) Foresee the IoT future developments in Pakistan, and b) To evaluate and recommend the possible regulatory options (requirements in terms of spectrum, data protection /privacy, roaming, numbering /addressing, device standardization/type approval, etc.), that PTA and Government of Pakistan may adopt to tackle the challenges and avail the opportunities offered by IoT services /applications.

 IoT communication is in its evolution. Certain countries have regulated it in a modest way while others are figuring out a balanced approach to identify requisite parameters to regulate it. As the impact of this phenomenon is cross-sectoral, therefore, regulation of this communication technology is vital, so that a balanced ecosystem can be created for the IoT value chain. The telecom regulators, globally, are focusing on establishing a balanced regulatory regime as the growth in the IoT sector progresses exponentially.

 Licensing is an important pillar of the regulatory regime for ensuring level playing field for service providers and requisite provision of services to consumers. In order to formulate a balanced ecosystem for IoT, some countries have opted to have a separate category of license for such services under certain conditions of provisions.

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