Get 3G going | Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Pakistan Press Foundation

Get 3G going

Pakistan Press Foundation

Here we go again. It feels like a billion dollars of easy money are just within reach. But we’ve been here before – and the billion dollars never materialised. The story revolves around the elusive 3G licenses and their auction in Pakistan, where neighbouring Afghanistan has already moved on to 4G. Who gets the licenses, how many are to be auctioned, how should they be priced; all these are questions to be answered by the regulatory body, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA). Or they would be answered, if all three of the chairs on the PTA board were not unstaffed. This might partially explain why a headless PTA, left at the mercy of baboos, is acting like everyone’s least favourite aunt, going about ordering ridiculous measures such as banning late-night call packages and SMS bundles, citing dangers to the “moral” code.

In all this confusion, in swoops the Supreme Court, with yesterday’s order. A new chairman in 15 days, auctions in a month! Wonderful news, but too good to be true? In a combination of politics and financial interest, every chairman of the PTA has either had his own appointment challenged in the courts for being too pliable, not pliable enough, too swift on auctioning licenses, or not swift enough. Some try to push through a transparent sale, and find that it wins them no friends. Others have no interest in the sale at all, only in hiring one hideously expensive ‘friendly’ consultant after another. Yet others are susceptible to suggestion by corporate interests in who should get a license and who should be kept away from it.
A billion dollars for 3G does seem like easy money, and it’s inked in as part of the budget for the fiscal year 2013-2014, but for it to materialise will take a great deal of nerve and a chairman with a will of iron, backed by a willing government with no dependents whose pockets need life-sustaining lining. The PTA needs a chief to push through the sale – quickly, and by the book. Not to mention, to keep the regulator away from what is none of it’s concern: what people are texting and at what time of the night.

The Nation

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