Transformation: New telecom policy likely to be finalised by September

Revised policy draft comes after a gap of 10 years.


Farooq Baloch July 24, 2014

KARACHI:


Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has shared the initial draft of the upcoming telecommunications policy with the industry and Ministry of IT and Telecom and sought the latter’s comments for a new telecom policy, which, according to sources, is likely to be finalised by September.


According to sources, the consultants hired by the telecom sector’s regulatory body have prepared the first draft of the country’s new telecom policy. The PTA has already shared it with the main stakeholders.

The five cellular mobile operators (CMOs) and the ministry are currently reviewing the documents and are likely to submit their comments –recommendations and reservations for example – before Eid, sources say.

The regulatory heads of all CMOs have already held a few meetings in this regard. After collectively reviewing the important policy document, the private sector will submit its recommendations to the regulator.

The PTA has given CMOs until the end of this week to submit their comments on the policy draft. In the next stage, the draft will be open for public consultation whereby all stakeholders as well as the media will comment on it, sources say.

“Government recognises that information and communication technology (ICT) is now entering an exciting and transformational era, in which it will become one of the dominant sectors in the economy, contributing hugely to the wellbeing of the society,” reads the text of the policy draft.

“This policy contributes to the attainment of an all-embracing national agenda for renewal and change, with the overarching aim that Pakistan becomes an industrialised and knowledge-based medium-income country by 2025.”

The document further says that the new policy identifies how existing assets, both physical and human, may be nurtured within a context designed to improve the availability of telecommunications, and thus social and economic enhancement. It also states how new technologies and new areas of economic activity may be embraced to widen the scope of the sector and increase its contribution to the nation.

It was in 2004 when the government revised the telecom policy the last time. The policy had to be revised after five years but the then government didn’t pay much attention to this area, said an official, resulting in a gap of 10 years.

However, experts say for a sector like telecom – which is a fast-moving domain – even five years is a very long period. Things change very quickly in the ICT sector, they say.

The PTA would like to finalise the policy draft by August, but sources say the process may take longer and the final policy may come in September.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 24th,  2014.

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