PTA launches drive against ‘Grey’ telecom traffic
LAHORE: The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has launched a drive to curb international grey telecommunication traffic with the assistance of the Federal Investigation Authority (FIA), the News learnt on Monday.
A senior PTA official said that this is the first time the exercise is taking place since the implementation of the controversial International Clearing House (ICH), the Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) has issued orders and also imposed penalties to telecom companies.
The official revealed that during last six days, the organization has unearthed and successfully raided four major Grey Setups with the assistance of FIA where international calls were being terminated on local network by using Voice over Internet Protocols (VoIP) gateways.
He said after the ICH the process of curbing grey traffic was almost halted. Due to no action, grey traffickers were encouraged grey traffic was increased almost more then two times as compared to pre-ICH regime, he said.
However, action against the grey traffic has again been initiated after the new government started redressing the issues of various departments including PTA. Observers say it is encouraging that at the PTA such efforts are being made when it is functioning without its Chairman and Authority members, and its employees are facing serious problems including disbursement of salary.
The PTA official said that four successful raids were conducted in Sargodha, Karachi, Sahiwal and Lahore. Thousands of mobile SIMs from various cellular operators and around twenty VoIP gateways were confiscated with multiple arrests made during the raids.
These actions are expected to have a positive impact on legal incoming International traffic and safeguard loss to the Exchequer in terms of Grey Traffic which causes millions of dollar loss per annum, he said.
But this appears to be the tip of the iceberg. The official admitted that that a huge volume of grey tariff on international calls is continuing. He said that out of every ten incoming international call at least half are terminated on grey channels. Due to this users are also facing audio problems. Many times calls are dropped or no audio comes out to the call receiver.
He said that the main issue in tracking grey traffickers is lack of facilities available to PTA. It is believed that more than 50 per cent grey traffic can be stopped within weeks if the authority is equipped with GSM box tracking equipment.
The cost of the GSM box is much less than the loss incurred to the national exchequer every day because of illegal call termination, he said. But as the PTA has been made virtually dysfunctional, it appears unlikely that such facilities be available to them in the near future. Therefore grey traffickers are likely to keep reaping the benefit of this government inefficiency.