Thursday, November 24, 2016

Government set to review telecom licensing framework

The government is all set to review the telecommunication licensing framework aimed at enhancing and optimising the licensing regime to cater for emerging technological and market trends, it is learnt.

Separate category in class licences regime associated with satellite services will be introduced, while it is expected that this review will take place by 31st December 2016, official sources revealed to Business Recorder.

Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) is planning to engage the services of internationally reputed consultant(s)/consulting firm(s) for the review of telecommunication licensing framework in Pakistan.

Officials said that any new licensing regime will be based on international best practices. It will enable new services to be readily provided while meeting service specific requirements (including but not limited to quality of service, customer protection, content acceptability and national security) as they are defined. The licensing regime will continue rights and obligations associated with scarce resources and any obligations on network roll-out.

The Telecommunication Policy 2015 states that the current licensing regime will continue to apply. Separate category in class licences regime associated with satellite services will be introduced. However, the PTA will conduct biannual assessment of market absorption capacity and any new licensing in LL, LDI and WLL sectors will be subject to such assessment.

The present licensing regime already distinguishes between those operators which provide infrastructure as well as services and those which provide services alone. Nevertheless, there is a need to further enhance and optimise the licensing regime to cater for emerging technological and market trends.

The federal government (MoIT) in consultation with PTA will, therefore, review the licensing policy framework, keeping in view the market state at that time, the move to regulation through Competition Rules, changes in the technology used to provide services and consequential changes in the types of organisations that are telecommunications service providers. Any proposed changes to the licensing regime will be made in consultation with the sector stakeholders and will be subject to approval by the federal government (MoIT).

Any new licensing regime will be based on international best practices. It will enable new services to be readily provided while meeting service-specific requirements (including but not limited to quality of service, customer protection, content acceptability and national security) as they are defined. The licensing regime will continue rights and obligations associated with scarce resources and any obligations on network roll-out.

In developing the new licensing regime inter alia the following should be taken into account: a) Section 20 of the Telecom Act, and in particular, which over-the-top services should be licensed under a "general authorisation" in which a service provider is deemed to hold a licence by virtue of the services that it provides and is then subject to the terms of that general authorisation, which may include national security requirements; b) whether there should be a separation of spectrum and operations licensing; c) the requirements for licensing of satellite services specified elsewhere in this policy; d) the requirements for licensing public Wi-Fi metropolitan area networks; e) the requirement for spectrum related licensing for non-public telecommunications use such as amateur radio, maritime and aviation uses; f) in addition to the specific cases listed above, the extent to which telecommunications and content services require licensing; g) whether distinctions should be maintained between different licence types, and if not, the implications of removing such distinctions including the rights and obligations of existing licensees that would need to be transitioned; h) the method of licensing of those organisations that hold a broadcasting licence to offer telecommunications services to ensure equivalent treatment of alternative infrastructure providers; i) the licensing of telecommunications licensees for the provision of broadcast media and/or distribution service, including the necessity of doing so given the evolving nature of TV.

A process for orderly transition in terms of rights and obligations of new and legacy licences will form a part of the new licensing regime. The PTA will continue to prepare requisite licence templates, information packages and other necessary measures with the approval of MoIT, to facilitate the licensing process. Issuance of revised licences would commence as soon as possible after the approval of the revised licensing regime by MoIT. This policy will be without prejudice to the purpose specific licenses given to government/semi-government and autonomous organisations, as these specific licences do not allow holders to become commercial operators.

Sources revealed that PTA is planning to engage the services of internationally reputed consultant(s) consulting firm(s) for the review of telecommunication licensing framework in Pakistan. The consultant(s)/consulting firm would be required to conduct the evaluation/assessment of existing licensing framework, consultation with stakeholders and advise PTA on developing future telecommunication licensing framework consider international best practices and its mapping for the Pakistani telecommunication industry.

According to the officials, the interested consultant(s)/consulting firm(s) would be asked to submit proposals for consultancy marked as "review of telecommunication licensing framework" complete in all respects as per the parameters laid down in the Request for Proposal (RFP) soon.


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