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ISLAMABAD: The telecom industry in Pakistan is facing serious challenges, especially after recent floods and problem of Letters of Credit, which are hampering the implementation of projects and resulting in degrading of services.

This was revealed by senior officials of the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication while briefing the National Assembly Standing Committee on Information Technology and Telecommunication, which met with Mir Khan Muhammad Jamali in the chair on Wednesday.

The committee expressed serious reservations over the poor quality of telecom services across the country while saying that Cellular Mobile Operators (CMOs) are charging consumers for 4G but providing 2G services even in Islamabad and Karachi.

Additional Secretary Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication Aisha Humera said that due to high expenditures and low profit, Telenor is considering leaving Pakistan.

The ministry later issued a statement, while saying that the context of telecom sector issues related to floods and LCs were discussed by the additional secretary IT and Telecom and mentioned that similar things were in news about Telenor since long and facing business difficulty in the past. There is no plan to exit the Pakistani market by Telenor at all.

“USF under MOITT has awarded project to enhance Broadband Internet coverage to Telenor Pakistan on open competitive bidding and uplift the quality of service to its customer in Chitral, Lower Dir and Upper Dir which shows dedication and commitment by Telenor Pakistan.

Telecom Industry including Telenor Pakistan is facing challenges, especially after recent floods and LCs issues due to global financial and energy crunch. This has been promptly addressed by the MOITT and was comprehensively appraised to the committee members,” it added.

The current economic meltdown and related liquidity issues have forced telecom companies to opt for cost cuttings.

MNA Aliyah Kamran said that if Telenor is leaving the country, then there would be some other issues other than low-profit margins. The committee was informed that Telecom Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) is the lowest in Pakistan. Further, due to the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP)’s restrictions on the opening of Letters of Credit (LCs), imports were being delayed, resulting in hampering project implementations.

Member Telecom of IT and Telecom Ministry Umer Malik admitted the poor quality of services while saying that quality of services parameters is not at par with other regional countries.

He said that around 1.5 million internet connections are being added every month, but operators failed to meet the requirements and have not upgraded their capacity. He said that the telecom sector revenue was Rs654 billion in 2020-21 which reached Rs691 billion in 2021-22. Despite the bad economic conditions, new companies are coming into the telecom sector and 99 licenses have been issued so far. Malik said that around 5,000 towers were affected due to recent floods in the country.

Director General Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) informed the committee penalty of Rs29 million was imposed on four Cellular Mobile Operators (CMOs) over their failure to meet the quality of service standards laid down in their licenses.

The PTA recently conducted survey in five cities including Sialkot, DI Khan, Tando Allah Yar, Mardan, and Mastung using smart benchmark quality of standard tool. The survey noted that the operators including Jazz, Telenor, Zong, and Ufone were found non-compliant with regard to observing parameters of QoS.

Official said that the PTA imposed a penalty of Rs7 million on Jazz for non-compliance with regard to observing parameters of QoS in Sialkot, DI Khan, and Tando Allah Yar. The authority imposed penalty of Rs6 million on Telenor for non-compliance with regard to observing parameters of QoS in Sialkot, DI Khan, and Tando Allah Yar, and Rs6 million in Mardan and Mastung.

The PTA imposed penalty of Rs3 million on Ufone for non-compliance with regard to observing parameters of QoS in Sialkot, DI Khan, and Tando Allah Yar, and Rs2 million in Mardan and Mastung. The authority imposed a penalty of Rs5 million on Zong for non-compliance with regard to observing parameters of QoS in Mardan and Mastung.

The government is planning to convert buildings on solar panels to save electricity, but currently, there is not a single “certified solar panel technician” in the country said Project Director of Virtual University. He further said that the country has only two certified Hybrid Electric Vehicle technicians. These two are working with Suzuki and Toyota companies at salaries of Rs0.55 million and Rs0.53 million.

Junaid Imam Member IT and acting MD PSEB informed the committee that the country produces around 25,000 IT graduates, but only 15-20 percent meets industry demands. DigiSkills.pk freelancers earned $290 million.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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Faisal Farooqui Jan 05, 2023 10:46pm
When was the telecom industry Really invest in Pakistan? Don’t we know betrayal of Etisalat from UAE, who promise to invest millions of dollars in PTCL & UFONE but never did! All these mobile phone operators went to Supreme Court for stay orders in order to run grey traffic & earn millions of dollars through illegal exchanges & never pay taxes under the auspices of Late Rehman Malik. The taxes these mobile phone operators which they took from us in cards & on recharging, did they submit immediately to government or not? Why they delay these taxes & keep them in their accounts those millions in their accounts for months & get profits on them too? Why PTA never allowed to issue a white paper or performance paper annually or twice a year on them? Now tower management is becoming little hard, so they worried about their profits only! Their reality opens during Covid when everything goes online! They even can’t execute VOLTE on their network!
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