National broadband policy being ‘finalised’

Senate panel informed 5G will be auctioned by 2023, small IT companies will be listed on the stock market


Irshad Ansari July 30, 2021

ISLAMABAD:

The Senate Standing Committee on Information Technology has been informed that the federal government is finalising the national broadband policy, 5G will be auctioned by 2023 and small IT companies will be listed on the stock market.

“IT exports have crossed $2 billion for the first time and next year's target is $3.5 billion,” a meeting of the standing committee held under the chairmanship of Senator Kauda Babar at the Parliament House was informed on Thursday.

Leader of the House Senator Shehzad Waseem, senators Rubina Khalid, Sana Jamali, Sami Azdi, Sania Nishtar, Palwasha Muhammad Zai Khan, Shahadat Awan and Afnanullah Khan besides IT ministry secretary, additional secretary, PTA chairman, Universal Service Fund chairman, representatives of cellular companies and other officials attended the meeting.

In the meeting, Senator Rubina Khalid said that in three years, “we have not been able to solve the problems of the Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited pensioners”. “To date, no progress has been made.”

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Briefing the committee, the IT secretary said that IT exports have crossed $2 billion for the first time, while next year's target is 3.5 billion. “4G connectivity in the country will improve from next year.”

He informed the committee that the national broadband policy was being finalized, while 5G will be auctioned by 2023 and “there is a plan to register small IT companies in the stock market”.

He said WhatsApp chat has end-to-end encryption but can be hacked. “We are creating our own application called ‘Beep’. It will be ready in a year and a half.”

Addressing the IT secretary, the chairman said that if there are any problems in the new schemes or any abuse is taking place, let the committee know.

The chairman sought details of the projects included in the PSDP from the IT secretary at the next meeting.

Briefing on the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities of mobile companies, PTA Chairman Amir Azeem Bajwa said that so far telecom companies have sent two billion free-of-cost awareness messages regarding coronavirus. “SMS for Ehsaas programme are also not charged. All companies deposit their gross revenue in the Universal Service Fund (USF).”

Chairman Babar said that it is a pity looking at the marketing fund and CSR of mobile companies.

“There is a big difference between marketing funds and CSR for mobile operators.”

Senator Rubina Khalid said that mobile companies spend more on their promotions.

“Mobile companies create attractive messages on social welfare. Mobile companies should get these messages approved from PTA. Society is being destroyed. Moral values are gone.”

She demanded launching a campaign to improve moral values.

The chairman asked whether the SCO is the only Pakistani company that is outside the country.

The PTA chairman informed the committee that the SCO was formed in 1976. This organisation was formed for communication in remote areas of Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan.

“Until the 2005 earthquake, SCOs were operating in AJK and Gilgit-Baltistan,” he said, adding that private mobile operators were allowed after 2005.

The committee chairman called for an in-camera briefing on the SCO.

The chairman said that 220 million people should benefit from the services. “There should be no monopoly at all. There should be open bidding for cellular companies.”

He said that the mobile network does not work in parliament and its lodges. “Improve your services.”

The chairman said, “There are network problems in Sindh and Balochistan. Why the coverage is low?”

The PTA chairman said that coverage is low in Balochistan due to security and other issues.

The chairman said Balochistan has become the safest area in Pakistan. “The law and order situation has improved due to the sacrifices made by security forces.”

The PTA chairman said, “Our focus is on 4G. Despite the challenges, subscriber growth has been 32%.”

 

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