The curse of Coronavirus Pandemic has enforced curfew to the entire system of the planet affecting more than 180 countries from the past 3 months. This deadly virus has its effect in Pakistan as well where the number of cases has reportedly exceeded 6,000 and the death toll reached 128, latest by Friday evening. In the wake of this pandemic, the governments around the world scrambled to shut down the businesses while simultaneously working from home. Due to this, like every other sector, Pakistan Telecom Industry is working incredibly hard to meet the requirements of usage of internet.
People sitting at home have more time to spend on their phones, stream Netflix and playing play station to entertain themselves. The digital environment has cemented the importance of the telecommunication industry during this lockdown. On April 14th, the government has allowed partial permission to some industries to regulate their businesses within the direction of the health minister to avoid any threat of Coronavirus.
Where every industry is suffering due to lockdown, the telecom industry in Pakistan is working incredibly hard to meet the rising demand of the internet at the same time. Since the lockdown has been enforced, there has been a 15% rise in internet use in Pakistan. The CEO of Pakistan’s biggest telecommunication brand JAZZ, Mr.Aamir Ibrahim in his interview with Kamran Khan has raised concern about government support in an additional spectrum in this difficult time. He also requested the government to provide relief measures for the telecommunication sector to cope with the COVID-19 crisis.
At this stage when there is fluctuation in businesses of telecom operators in Pakistan, CEO JAZZ Aamir Ibrahim threw light on the current situation of the telecom industry in an interview with Kamran Khan.
“There’s a lot of capacity at JAZZ to cope with Crisis, but government should also enhance spectrum for COVID-19”, said CEO JAZZ Pakistan.
As a leading telecom brand, JAZZ CEO made a mutual request on behalf of other telecos to provide the necessary relief packages to facilitate CMOs which are providing gratis services to the government to render services related to mass awareness arresting the threat of COVID-19.
“The cellular network’s usage has been declined to 10% after this lockdown. Before this, people used to make network calls for their business communication, school administration were communicating over calls. Now children are at home, businesses are almost closed, allowing a decline in network calls simultaneously”, said CEO JAZZ.
Wherever we see that data traffic increases and the bandwidth is strained, we augment and add capacity. We see that people make fewer calls but rely on high-speed Internet more. There is a lot of capacity still at @jazzpk but the govt can also enhance spectrum for #COVID__19 pic.twitter.com/xZmjcMqzkC
— Aamir Hafeez Ibrahim (@aamir_ibrahim01) April 16, 2020
CEO Telenor Pakistan, Irfan Wahab Khan, has close views to Aamir Ibrahim’s on the rise in the use of the broadband Internet.
The high demand in internet use also triggers concerns over privacy infringements that are expected to escalate in the days ahead. Privacy problems in Pakistan will remain a concern due to the business model being offered by third parties who do not adhere to the current licensing framework.
The stability of the telecom sector is vital as a backbone of the emerging economy. The industry, therefore, has requested the government to continue with supporting the authorities and to cope with customer needs during this crisis. The industry highlighted immediate measures that need due consideration at its earliest mentioned below.
Temporary Suspension of Taxes
In this hard time, people are facing difficulties to meet their daily needs due to increasing evil of unemployment. The deduction of taxes while recharging must be minimized so that it will help people to stay connected to their loved ones while maintaining the social distance.
- Urge to suspend the Withholding Tax (WHT) by the Federal government during this COVID-19 crisis.
- Immediate measures should be taken to wave off applicable taxes on data services by the Government both Federal and Provincial.
- Federal Government to allow rationalization of GST @16% countrywide.
Relaxation in NADRA verification Charges
The biometric charges on every SIM verification along with the CNIC data verification charges must be waived off during this ongoing cruel crisis. NADRA charges Rs. 23 on data verification from the telecos while Rs.10 hits on simple biometric verification on SIM Sales which makes a gross of Rs. 140M per month by the telecom industry serves for the security requirements.
Additional spectrum in AJK and GB
About 6 million population accumulatively deprived of internet facility in AJK and GB at the time of serious threat of a pandemic. Industry demanded the immediate occurrence of an additional spectrum in this region like previously done by the CMOs in 2006 at the state of emergency due to earthquakes. The vast population in this region is deprived of basic health updates and e-education services.
It is of high concern to enable the provision of reasonable mobile broadband services 3G/4G in this region and award availability of spectrum in AJK and GB on humanitarian grounds.
Reduction in Annual Funds
Telecom industry annually contributes to Universal Service Funds (USF) and Research and Development (R&D) to cope with innovation in the technological world. Contributing 1.5% and 0.5% respectively to these funds through annual gross revenue is a tough decision in this serious time. Industry seeks support given a huge accumulation of unallocated amounts of both funds and a 50% reduction for 2 years in fund contribution. Industry urge the government of Pakistan to reduce the contribution percentage.
Annual Regulatory Dues (ARDs) should be reduced
Amid the rising threat of COVID-19, this crisis has led many potential businesses to face low. To avoid economical fall in the industry, Annual Regulatory Dues (ARDs) must be minimized or at least reduced to 50% according to their cellular mobile licenses.
If these measures will be taken seriously by the Federal government, this shall turn out into a great benefit of the users as well as for the telecom industry to keep the economy moving and focusing more on the sustainability of this sector.