Pakistan lagging behind Afghanistan in 3G technology
* PTA chairman tell NA’s body 3G auction will be completed by end of 2012
By Ijaz Kakakhel
ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Cabinet Secretariat on Friday informed that it is deplorable that Afghanistan has 3G technologies while there are several complications in auction of 3G spectrum licence in Pakistan.
However, Pakistan Telecommuni-cation Authority (PTA) Chairman Farooq Awan assured the committee that by the end of this year PTA will finalise the auction of 3G licence. For the last few years, the government reflects the amount to be received through auction of 3G in the annual budget but the transaction could not be materialised, yet. Throughout the media and in other forums, heated debates were carried out over minimum price determination for 3G licence auction, set by the PTA. But after such criticism, the auction of 3G licence was delayed. The government is unable to decide either PTA has to set minimum price for 3G licence or a private consultant has to fix the price.
The PTA chairman informed the committee that the authority wanted that there might be a monitoring committee, consisting of media and civil society persons having complete access to information. The PTA chairman said that the 3G process will be completed in the current year. On the directives of the prime minister, the authority has reinitiated the process. In this regard, advertisement will be given in the next two weeks and consultant of international repute will be hired in next 55 days. To ensure transparency in the 3G auction process, an independent team comprising media and civil society will be constituted, which will monitor the whole process.
About gray traffic, the committee was told that the government incurred $25 million annual revenue theft, causing a huge loss to the national exchequer. The PTA officials informed the committee that a total of 71 gray traffic cases were forwarded to Federal Investigation Agency during the last three years where 45 successful raids were conducted while 26 cases are in process.
Out of this 14 cases have been decided, 12 persons convicted while Rs 21.717 million fines were imposed on them. PTA has been confronting several court cases in Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar, Quetta high courts and in the Supreme Court. The companies registered cases against PTA whenever the authority wanted to implement certain decisions.
During his presentation, PTA chairman said National Telecommuni-cation Corporation (NTC) has about 100,000 connections however due to low business; the institute is deteriorating. Fourteen licences have so far been issued to Long Distance International operators where one operator’s licence was terminated when it defaulted.
He further informed the committee that due to delay in auction of 3G licence, India recently overtook Pakistan in teledensity. Telecom sector contributed over Rs 109 billion to the national exchequer in shape of taxes during 2011-12 against Rs 105 billion in 2010-11.
The PTA chairman further informed that Rs 200 million has so far been recovered from defaulters during 2011-12 against over Rs 250 million. However, a decline has occurred in recovery as most of the defaulters went to courts and took stay orders. The committee further informed that the government has reinstated Member Finance PTA while inquiry against him in embezzlement is still underway.
The committee was informed that Member (Finance) PTA was restored, who was earlier suspended by former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani in April 2011, for allegedly causing losses of over Rs 5 billion to PTA and government of Pakistan by allegedly extending undue favours to various companies.
The PTA chairman also informed the committee that due to tough competition in the telecom sector of Pakistan, the rates are lower in the region. About quality services, the chairman said whenever the PTA wants to take action against companies over poor performance, they get stay order from courts.