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Telecom sector stands deregulated from January 1

ISLAMABAD (December 24 2002) : The Minister for IT and Telecommunication Owais Leghari announced here on Monday that telecommunication sector stands deregulated from January 1, 2003. He made the announcement during a one-day seminar on telecommunication organised by English daily of Lahore at a local hotel here.

While making this announcement, the minister said that the PTCL and PTA would continue to issue licences.

And that he had had discussions with the private sector on the new telecommunication policy.

The policy will not be made in haste but before taking it to the cabinet shortly, he would have more discussions with the private sector.

The policy, he assured the audience, would ensure a level playing field for all the stakeholders from the public and private sector.

The minister was sharply critical of the role of the PTCL in the last 12 years when the deregulation of the sector was mooted.

At that time the country was ahead of regional countries in this sector and now it was behind all, trying to catch up with others.

His noted that regional countries gave a glowing example of unprecedented growth of telecommunication sector as a key driver of economic progress.

Against this, our growth is half of the regional average and tele-density is still less than three percent, which is regarded the lowest, in comparable economies.

POOR SHOWING: “What's more ironic is that we lived through what is now regarded the golden era of telecommunications and saw emergence of the world's largest telecommunication market right in our neighbourhood.” The sector's role in Pakistan's development remained marginal at best, he observed.

The minister also pointed out certain other deficiencies.

Speaking about the financial position of PTCL, he said that PTCL's human resource base shows one of the highest ratios of telephone lines to employees. (Free telephone is one of the many perks enjoyed by the employees like free electricity to Wapda's employees. Both have a huge labour force).

Further he was shocked to learn that there was only one member which was looking after human resource development.

He also spoke of the bureaucratic inertia in the PTCL, which, he warned, should now be a thing of the past.

“Every measure will now be undertaken to ensure that an agile human resource pool exists within PTCL which is fully cognisant of the dynamics of operating company in a de-regulated market and responsive to customer needs.”

He added: “I also feel that without good top level vision and privates sector's management skills, the company may lose focus”. There are plans, he added, to induct top quality professionals both in the PTCL Board of Directors as well as in the key areas of management.

According to him improving PTCL's overall quality of service is the cornerstone of strategy and PTCL has to ensure that its network performs optimally to meet the customer needs.

DEREGULATION POLICY: Speaking about the de-regulation policy, the minister said that the strategy would be to protect the rights and interests of all stakeholders.

There are ongoing deliberations about fixed Vrs mobile telephony, appropriate technologies, perfect deregulation model suited to our environment which are being carefully addressed.

The deregulation policy, the minister added, would be based on ensuring fair competition and level playing field, implementation is gradual and phase wise, entry of pre defined number of operators is ensured, compliance with international standards for market opening and affordable service s to the consumers.

Continuing, the minister said that in the immediate future the emphasis lies on opening up the fixed telephony sector while we carry out an analysis for cellular sector development strategy.

Detailed policy for cellular sector would be announced during next year fully recognising the importance of cellular mobile telephony in expansion of access of service and its role in the new economy.

He underscored the importance of telecommunication as the new area for investment and assured that the government would not take any step that would discourage foreign investment.

The government, he added, is committed to telecom sector de-regulation and opening up to full competition.

The ministry would extend full co-operation to all current and future entrants in developing the sector and bringing its benefits of competitive market in Pakistan.

Replying to a question, Leghari said that PTCL is not going to be over protected.

The sector would be fairly de-regulated with a level playing field for all and that no player is to be government's favourite.

Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) is fully geared to execute telecom deregulation policy after its approval by the government.

This was stated by Chairman PTA, Major General Shahzada Alam Malik (Retd) at a seminar on “Telecommunication – The Road Ahead.”

He said that as a sole telecom regulatory body, PTA would ensure a level playing field to the telecom operations and other stakeholders.

PTA has evolved a comprehensive strategy to attract investors in the deregulated scenario.

He extended the assurance that the PTA would implement the policy on deregulation in a free, fair and impartial manner.

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