The long-awaited Telecom Policy was finally approved by the Economic Coordination Council (ECC) on 11th December, 2015. The policy emphasizes many issues faced by cellular mobile operators (CMOs), who are viewing the new policy as an encouraging progress that will make the telecom sector stronger.
“By and large the new policy is very positive for the industry and we look forward to a level-playing field that will further boost the sector’s growth.”
Said Omar Manzur, Director Corporate Communication at Mobilink, the largest CMO by subscriber base.
Telecom Policy 2015 Aims to Transform Pakistan into an Economically Vibrant Country by 2025
However the policy document focused most of the concerns facing the telecom sector, it did not accommodate CMOs’ entreaty to grant them industry prominence, which might assist lessen their tax compulsions, such as customs duty, sales tax and income tax. In this regard Manzur informed that discussions with the government are a constant process but as a whole the new policy is progressive.
The telecom sector was deregulated in 2003. Since that time it has seen exceptional growth in terms of teledensity, particularly through mobile penetration. The country’s total teledensity stands at 66% as of October 2015, which shows a 4.3% increase from fiscal year 2003.
The 2003 policy had to be reviewed after five years but previous governments did not worry about it, as a result the telecom policy faced a delay of 12 years. Meanwhile, the information and communications technology (ICT) entered an exhilarating and transitional period and became one of the leading contributors to economic growth for which an efficient policy to address the challenges of today is obligatory.
“The Telecom Policy 2015 is aimed to facilitate the attainment of an all-embracing national agenda and to transform Pakistan into an economically vibrant, knowledge-based, middle-income country by 2025.”
Says the new policy document.
“With socio-economic development through ICT at its core, this is a graduating step towards strengthening Telecommunications sector in Pakistan.”
Telenor Pakistan’s Chief Corporate Affairs and Strategy Officer Aslam Hayat told in a statement.
Hayat informed that the new policy will give an acceptable base for telecom infrastructure, spectrum, Universal Services Fund (USF), ICT, research and development funds and satellite telecommunications, which will subsidize towards establishing an operative outline for implementation of telecom projects and justifying taxes.
Certain important problems that should be deliberated by the new policy comprise provision of public Wi-Fi hot spots, fast tracking right of way process for telecom infrastructure, abolishing grey telephony, creating telecentres with USF fund to surge coverage in under-served areas and a competition agenda intended to inspire well-organized and good eminence market offering and choice of services to customers.