The Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) has confirmed the award of nine fixed line licences, three for the provision of long-distance international (LDI) services and six for the operation of fixed local loop (FLL) networks. The new LDI licensees – Callmate Telips Telecommunication, Link Direct International and World Call Telecom – were just three of the 23 firms to express an interest in receiving a 20-year licence. 19 companies were eventually approved to receive concessions, although thus far only the above named had submitted the requisite USD10 million performance bond to the regulator; licences also carry a USD500,000 pricetag. The PTA has given the remaining successful applicants 30 days to do the same.
The successful candidates for the fixed local loop licences were Dancom Pakistan, Ion, Unified Technologies, World Call Broadband, World Call Multimedia and CCZ. In total 72 applications for FLL licences have been received by the PTA, of which eleven requested concessions for all 14 of Pakistan’s telecoms regions. Bidding for wireless in the local loop (WiLL) spectrum will begin next month.
The move towards a more liberalised telecoms industry in Pakistan also includes proposals to sell off part of former monopoly telecoms provider – PTCL- presently 88% owned by the state. In June 2003 the Pakistan Privatisation Commission said it had finalised arrangements to dispose of a number of state-owned companies – including PTCL – by December, but the process has been continually delayed. Speaking at the roadshow of Pakistan Petroleum IPO, Federal Minister for Privatisation and Investment Dr Abdul Hafeez said that the decision of how to dispose of the state’s PTCL stake would be made ‘very soon’. At the end of May 2004 PTCL had an installed capacity of 5.17 million lines, of which 4.38 million were in service, translating to a teledensity of just 2.9%. With such huge amounts of latent demand, the new licensees will no doubt be hoping to succeed in attracting large numbers of new customers.