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PTA set to regulate mobile apps and OTT services

Published on 22nd Aug, Edition 34-35, 2016

 

The government vision for the growth of telecommunication sector is fighting fit, affordable as quality telecommunication services are being offered by open, competitive and well managed markets for the advantage of economy and society. The government has formulated a comprehensive ‘Pakistan Telecommunication Policy 2015’ and believed that it would spur socio-economic development and act as a catalyst towards achieving knowledge based society.

The present government proclaimed that the telecommunication sector in the country is one of the most dynamic sectors in the economy and during the last five years, this sector attracted FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) of greater than US$7 billion, which is a reflection of the right mix of regulatory and policy framework of the government.

The country is a member of the ITU since 1947, and has participated vigorously in the activities of the organization adding that Pakistan looks forward to working closely with the ITU on joint strategies to advantage its citizens. The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is an agency of the United Nations (UN) whose purpose is to coordinate telecommunication operations and services throughout the world.

Presently PTA (Pakistan Telecommunication Authority) is considering regulating the mobile apps and Over the Top (OTT) services like Skype, WhatsApp and Viber etc. The model for delivery of Internet-based VoIP and other OTT services is basically dissimilar from the earlier model in which services were embedded in the network. Therefore, most regulatory regimes planned in accordance with the earlier model are not satisfactory when applied in this context.

The proposed revision to the licensing framework would address this issue in the long term. PTA has constituted a committee, which is working on the framework to be shared with stakeholders counting telecom operators shortly. The committee was tasked to formulate recommendations by which OTT services, mostly the mobile apps, would be brought under regulation in the country.

Telecom Policy 2015 mentioned the framework would enable the Government of Pakistan to make sure that such mobile apps are in line with national interests and do not hurt telecom sector’s (operators) interests.

CARD PAYPHONES IN PAKISTAN
YEAR
PCOs
GROWTH (%)
2006-07
387,490
9.7
2007-08
449,121
15.9
2008-09
405,359
9.7
2009-10
337,740
7.32
2010-11
313,723
7.11
2011-12
287,580
8.33
2012-13
289,252
0.58
2013-14
144,795
-49.94
2014-15
53,887
(62.78)
Note: LL, WLL & Cellular PCOs

Experts said that there is an immediate requirement to regulate services like VoIP and other voice services that are partial or full substitutes for the traditional Public Switched Telephone Network, chiefly when the services are offered through unlicensed service providers either in the country or in other states.

PTA, in consultation with federal government and stakeholders, would develop appropriate regulatory framework to treat VoIP and other OTT services. The framework would take account of the possibility that service providers providing such services may preferably install equipment in the country where possible, the rapidity of development of such services, the extensive range of such services, the potential requirements for scarce resources (e.g. numbers), requirements for lawful interception, requirements for access to emergency services, cooperation with Law Enforcement Agencies, data retention obligations on operators, impact on operator networks, and where appropriate, the requirement for interconnection with the equivalent embedded or OTT.

Taking into account the internationally emerging revenue sharing arrangements between domestic licensees and OTT players, for providing better than normal best-effort or differentiated version of the services, licensed access providers would be free to enter into mutual deals with the service providers enabling them to monetize OTT service delivery on mutually agreed terms.

New regulatory framework may also incorporate revenue sharing arrangements between domestic licensees (telcos for instance) and OTT players (Viber, Skype, WhatsApp etc), for providing differentiated version of the services (free and paid) so that licensed businesses could enter into mutual deals with OTT service providers to monetize OTT service delivery on mutually agreed terms. According to the adepts, India and US also framed such regulations and are in implementation phases.

WIRELESS LOCAL LOOP TELEDENSITY IN PAKISTAN
YEAR
WLL DENSITY
2007-08
1.4
2008-09
1.6
2009-10
1.6
2010-11
1.7
2011-12
1.8
2012-13
1.8
2013-14
1.69
2014-15
0.6
2015-16
0.29
Note: Including AJK & NAs: WLL figures are as of Mar 16

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