PTA Fined Zong Heavily Over Illegal Use of Spectrum

Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has directed a cellular company to vacate unauthorized and illegal use of radio frequency spectrum and submit payments for the period of unauthorized use of frequency at the rate of US$29.5 Million per MHz for 15 years including late payment additional fee as per applicable law.

In this regard, the PTA has issued an Enforcement Order under Section 23 of the Pakistan Telecommunication (Re-organization) Act, 1996 against China Mobile Pakistan Limited.

PTA Fined Zong Heavily Over Illegal Use of Spectrum

According to the PTA order, the use/utilization of radiofrequency spectrum by CMPak Ltd in 1800 MHz band ranging from 1755.7-1762.3 / 1850.7-1857.3 MHz (6.6 + 6.6 MHz) since 23rd October 2019 onwards is unauthorized and illegal.

CMPak Ltd is hereby directed to vacate the Frequency Spectrum in 1800 MHz band ranging from 1755.7-1762.3 / 1850.7-1857.3 MHz (6.6 + 6.6 MHz) at the earliest but not later than seven (7) days from the date of receipt of this order and submit a compliance report thereof.

CMPak Ltd is liable to make payments for the period of unauthorized use of 6.6 MHz in 1800 MHz band at the rate of USD 29.5 Million per MHz for fifteen (15) years as fixed in the Policy Directive dated 9th May 2019 including late payment additional fee as per applicable law, PTA order added.

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According to PTA order, this enforcement order seeks to dispose of Show Cause Notice dated 11th March 2020 (the “SCN”) issued to China Mobile Pak Limited for unauthorized and illegal use of Radio Frequency Spectrum in 1800 MHz band ranging from 1755.7-1762.3 /1850.7-1857.3 MHz (6.6 + 6.6 MHz) after 22nd October 2019.

The relevant facts for the disposal of the instant SCN are that the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (the “Authority”) renewed the non-exclusive license (originally granted by Government of Pakistan on 19th April 1990 and revalidated by the Authority on 12th August 1997) of Paktel Limited, which was subsequently renamed as China Mobile Pak Limited (the “CMPak Ltd”) in the year 2007, vide license No. CMT-03/LL&M/PTA/2004 dated 23rd October 2004 (the “license”) for a period of fifteen (15) years under the Mobile Cellular Policy, 2004 (the “2004 Policy”) to provide licensed cellular mobile services in Pakistan on the terms & conditions contained in the license. The license was associated with 2 x 13.6 MHz of Radio Frequency Spectrum in 900MHz and 1800MHz bands in the following manner: 882.5 – 890.1 MHz / 927.5-935.1 MHz (7.6 + 7.6 MHz) 1739.7 – 1745.7 MHz / 1834.7 – 1840.7 MHz (6 + 6 MHz)

In the year 2007, CMPak Ltd reported interference in its 900 MHz EGSM band at multiple border areas/locations in Punjab and Sindh provinces. Soon after reporting of the issue of interference by CMPak Ltd, the matter was referred to the Frequency Allocation Board (“FAB”).

It was found by the FAB that the interference experienced by CMPak Ltd was due to the Indian CDMA (Code Division Multiplexing Access) network services in 850 MHz band operational across the eastern border of Pakistan. Moreover, it was also identified that the interference was intermittent and weather-related and mostly due to tropospheric ducting effect.

Since CMPak Ltd had been receiving interference from the Indian CDMA networks and no cooperation was received from the Indian Administration, therefore, it was decided to vide 30th meeting of FAB dated 08th September 2007 to assign temporary additional spectrum of 6.6 + 6.6 MHz in 1800 MHz band to CMPak Ltd to be used only within the affected areas of Punjab and Sindh. The assignment of additional spectrum to CMPak Ltd by FAB was initially for one year and then it was extended for 03 years vide 33rd FAB’s meeting dated 29th February 2008.

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