Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani announced on Wednesday that the government had constituted a cabinet committee for formulating policy for issuing 3G (third generation) Services mobile phone licences and promised to ensure implementation of new rules this fiscal year.
Talking to a magazine editor on information technology, Gilani said the Ministry of Information Technology had been directed to speed up work on modernisation of the telecom sector.
According to a statement issued by his media office, the premier said the government looked forward to suggestions from stakeholders as well as from the public to bring the telecom sector on a par with that in developed countries.
According to an earlier report in this newspaper, the formation of the committee was an attempt to allay concerns of stakeholders before auction of licences for advanced telecom services which is expected to fetch Rs75 billion.
The third generation mobile telecommunication services include wide-area wireless voice telephone, mobile Internet access, video calls and mobile TV.
Sources told The Express Tribune the government’s bid to earn Rs75 billion through auction of 3G licences is largely dependent on addressing concerns raised by an international telecom player.
Sources said the cabinet had recently constituted a three-member ministerial committee to finalise auction arrangements and address concerns of the telecom player.
The committee is headed by Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh and comprises Privatisation Minister Ghous Bux Mehar and Water and Power Minister Naveed Qamar. The information technology secretary is assisting the committee.
Meeting budget deficit target
The government has announced a tight budget for financial year 2011-12 with a projected deficit – gap between income and expenditure – of four per cent of total national income or Rs851 billion.
The achievement of the target depends on so many factors including Rs75 billion (almost 0.3 per cent of total national income) from 3G licences and recovery of outstanding amount of Rs70 billion from sale of 26 per cent shares of Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL). Only these two components account for almost 0.6 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP).
Sources said there were differences over the interpretation of an agreement between Pakistan and the international telecom player reached at the time of sale of shares of state-owned telecommunication company.
The telecom giant was of the opinion that Pakistan cannot sell a new telecom licence for any spectrum until seven years, which will end in March 2013.
The government has taken the position that 3G licence is not something new but actually an extension of existing services. It has also a different interpretation of the time limit.
WITH ADDITIONAL INPUT BY
Published in The Express Tribune, July 7th, 2011.
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