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ISLAMABAD: The Cellular Mobile Operators (CMOs) have demanded moratorium on quality-of-service, roll out obligations, moratorium on Universal Service Fund (USF) and R&D fund reduction from two percent to one percent for one year duration and floor price uplift mechanism of voice and data to optimize base price.

Official sources revealed to Business Recorder that CMOs Chief Executive Officers (CEO) held a meeting with Federal Minister for Information Technology and Telecommunication Syed Aminul Haque on February 22, 2023. During the meeting, four-item agenda was discussed for the sustainability of telecom sector.

These include; (i) Moratorium on quality-of-service, (ii) roll out obligations, (iii) moratorium on USF and R&D fund reduction from two percent to one percent for one year duration, (iv) floor price uplift mechanism of voice and data to optimize base price.

The Ministry has asked Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to provide response on the issues and furnish legal procedure as per rules.

However, official sources and telecom experts warned that if government allows operators moratorium on quality-of-service, roll out obligations, and floor price uplift mechanism of voice and data to optimize base price, it would not only compromise quality of services but would increase rates for consumers.

Senate and National Assembly standing committees have repeatedly expressed their serious concerns over poor quality of services of cellular companies across the country. Further, general public through social media also raised questions over the deterioration in quality of telecom services and endorsed by the Ministry of IT and Telecom.

The Standing Committee on Information Technology & Telecommunications on Monday expressed concern over the poor signal/coverage of Mobile Network Services and directed PTA to ensure the proper network coverage and data services across the country.

PTA apprised the Committee about the independent surveys conducted across the country out of which in five districts the quality of network services found below the standards however, the PTA imposed Rs 29 million fine on telecom operators with the direction to improve their services.

CMOs have missed most of the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) set in their licence and applicable regulations with respect to webpage loading time and latency, the latest independent quality of service (QoS) survey carried out by PTA revealed. PTA issued instructions to the operators for taking corrective measures, so as to ensure improvement in the service quality according to the licenced standards.

Omar Malik, Member Telecom of the Ministry, has also admitted the poor and degraded services in the country during a parliamentary panel meeting. “I observed the same issues and theses exist,” he added. Member Telecom said that during last three and a half years 60 million internet connections were increased in the system which put additional burden on the system. However CMOs failed to meet the growing demand.

The IT Minister has stated that a proposal is under consideration to give maximum fiscal space to telecom operators including suspending USF and Ignite contribution or minimizing it by one percent provided that the federal government announce incentives for this sector.

Telecom operators contribute around Rs6 billion in USF and Rs2 billion in Ignite annually. The objective behind the proposal is to reduce the cost of doing business and improve industry profitability. However, sources revealed that if the government suspended the industry contribution, it might hurt the telecom sector expansion.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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