The government is facing a catch-22 position with respect to license renewal of three mobile operators as well as an award of additional spectrum. The license renewal of two mobile operators is due in early May, 2019 and one in October 2019. The government is expecting to generate $1-2 billion revenue from the renewal of licenses as well as an award of additional spectrum. However, the government has yet to come up with any policy guidelines in this regard so far which is resulting in uncertainty in the industry.
In order to ensure the adequate proliferation of telecommunication services across the country, the mobile communications licenses include the minimum roll-out obligations to be met by the licensees within the given time frame. Beyond licenses conditions, CMos expand networks depending upon market demand, business cases, population and revenue etc.
Govt Plans to Amend Mobile Service Obligations & KPIs in Upcoming License Renewal of Mobile Operators
In so far, provision of services at a particular location in addition to the roll-out obligations is concerned, the licensees make such decisions after comprehensive commercial feasibility analysis. Official sources said the government is considering amending mobile service obligations, key performance indicators (KPIs) as well as quality standards benchmarks in the upcoming license renewal of mobile operators and award of additional spectrum.
However, according to officials, the government is facing indecisiveness due to some technical as well as financial hurdles. Member (Compliance & Enforcement) Dr Khawar Siddique Khokhar said that roll-out obligations are likely to be changed. Further quality indicators would also be changed in the renewal of licenses.
It is a fact that rollouts obligations, quality standards and performance indicators benchmarks were relaxed in the license conditions renewed/issued earlier. But if the government changes these conditions, how three mobile operators would work with one kind of obligations while the remaining two with another kind of standards. But, if the government does not change these standards/obligations, it is feared that telecom services/facilities may be compromised.
According to official documents, rollout obligations as per the renewed license 2014 are as under
- 100 percent Tehsil Headquarters in Punjab and Sindh,
- 90 percent Tehsil HQs in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
- 50 percent Tehsil HQs in Balochistan and FATA
The government has also to set license renewal fee. Some operators have requested the government to renew the license at the same price i.e. $291 million, 10 percent upfront and 15 interest-free instalments. However, the government has yet to reach any decision in this regard.
Some of the un-served and under-served areas in Balochistan as well as South Waziristan and Kurram districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa still lack access to basic telephony and mobile broadband services. Further, there are many issues where signals/service quality is not up to the mark and parliamentarians raise these issues in the National Assembly as well as Senate Standing Committees on a routine basis. It has also bee reported by few operators that due to security concerns the sites are temporarily turned off in compliance of directives issued by security/ law enforcement agencies.