Telecom policy draft to be ready in two months
LAHORE- Federal Minister for Science and Technology, Dr Ata-ur-Rehman, has said that the draft of the new ‘Telecom Policy’ would be prepared within a couple of months.
“The new policy would not revolve around the monopoly of Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL); rather, it will address the issues arising after foreign competitors enter the telecom sector and PTCL’s monopoly ceases to exist,” the minister said while talking to journalists after the inauguration of the two-day ‘Telecom and Information Technology (IT) Asia 2001’ conference and exhibition.
He said that the government would be announcing a 20-year tax holiday for the IT companies intending to invest and operate in the country as without these long term policies, growth of IT sector in the country is not possible.
“Pakistan needs at least 30,000 to 40,000 IT professionals for achieving the software export target of $ 1 billion annually. For this purpose, all-out efforts are being made to enhance computer literacy, and soon youth would be provided with IT tutorials on Paskistan Television-2 (PTV-2),” he said.
Ata said that the government is also planning to reduce bandwidth rates to the extent that Pakistan might stand at the top among the developing nations as far as the low rates are concerned.
About the high prices of computers and hardware components, the minister said that there are plans in the pipeline to buy used computers at $ 50 per piece and give them to general public so that they could overcome the problem of high pricing of new computers. “We would start buying used computers in phases; consignments of 10,000 computers would be imported,” he added.
Earlier, at the inaugural session of the IT conference and Exhibition, Ata said that the government has asked the PTCL to reduce its call rates so as low income groups could also utilize the telephone facility. “Our experiment of reducing the telephone call rates during Ramazan was highly successful: that also established that the low rates generate more revenue,” he added.
He said the government has asked PTCL to reduce the call rates in phases, as when the foreign competitors would enter the telecom sector, PTCL with its high pricing would not be able to sustain the pressure of market forces.
He was of the view that there was a high percentage of thefts in PTCL exchanges and the only way this problem could be addressed was to give the exchanges on lease to private sector. “Foreign companies and some multinationals have shown interest for making investment of $ 30 billion in Pakistan’s telecom sector. IBM and SYSCO, two international giants, have already agreed to start their teaching and testing facilities here,” he said.
Ata said that the government is interested giving the telecom sector the right direction, and the PTCL authorities have been asked to spend Rs. 600 million on research and development. “At present, the PTCL subscription rate is only 2.3 percent and we want to increase the total number of PTCL connections from 350,000 to one million connections as soon as possible,” he said.
Regarding Internet service providers (ISPs), Ata said that the increase in the number of internet users in Pakistan has put a lot of pressure on ISPs. In this regard, the government has set up Vigilance Committees, which would monitor ISP operations. “After these committees start functioning, only those companies would operate in Pakistan that would abide by the rules and policies laid out by the government” he added.
Earlier, Arjumand Sheikh and Mian Fazal Ahmed of Telecom and IT Asia 2001 organising committee also addressed the congregation and highlighted the aims and objectives of the conference and the two-day exhibition.
The conference and exhibition has been arranged by Development Times in collaboration with Institute of Telecommunication Engineer, Institution of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority and Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited.
Source: Business Recorder