PTA starts licence awarding to new cell-phone cos -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

PTA starts licence awarding to new cell-phone cos

ISLAMABAD : Leaving the government in efforts to introduce a comprehensive policy for cell-phone industry, the state­watchdlg for the telecom sector in Pakistan launched the process of awarding licences to new operators in addition to the existing four.

Pakistan Telecommunication Authority Chairman Shahzada Alam Malik, addressing a Press conference on Tuesday, said that the process of formulator of the policy by the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecornmunication was in progress and consultants were working with PTA in this regard.

Responding to a specific query about award of licences prior to the launch of a policy, he said, the policy formulation was in progress parallel to efforts of the
PTA to promote the industry.

“Every thing is in close coordination of the state organs as the ministry consultants are working with us and PTA is constantly in touch with the ministry,” he added. “The objective is to ensure a level playing field for both the exiting operators and the new comers,” he said while refuting the impression that PTA had assured the grant of licence to certain company.

According to the Chairman, the decision to start the process of awarding new licencing through open bidding was taken at the level in the government and the entire process would be transparent in front of the public and the media.
There were apprehensions among the media that the goverrment above the PTA had assured the grant of licence to some favorite American company for which, they alleged, the process was being accelerated even ahead of the finalisation of mobile phone policy.

However, PTA chairman refuted such reports and apprehensions and added in categoric terms that “neither PTA had granted any licence prior to the bidding process nor had it extended any assurance in this regard to any one.”

“PTA has floated advertisement in both the national media inviting Expressions of Interests (EoIs) from the parties willing to compete for two new licences being offered,” he said.

According to the chairman, Januarv 7 would be the last date for furnishing the EoIs with the Authority which would hold a meeting with the interested parties on January 14. The bidding and the consequent award of licences would be done hopefully by mid March 2004.

The issues of quality and connectivitv failure by the existing mobile phone operators and rising demand for cell-phones have necessitated the award of two new licences.
Responding to an apprehension that the operators’ cartel may exploitr the consumer, he said, it would be next to impossible in five or six operators to form a cartel. “The fair competition is the most ruthless of all sorts of regulators,” he maintained. According to the chairman, the existing four operators would be given a letter of comfort ensuring level playing field for them and their licences would be renewed on the same principle.

One of existing licences, he said, was expiring in 2OO5 followed by another one to expire in 2007 and for renewal they would also have to pay the amount equal to the highest bid.
Source: The Nation