MoITT unveils draft Telecom Policy; includes provisions for net neutrality, spectrum sharing and OTT

10 Oct 2014

Pakistan’s Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication (MoITT) has published a draft Telecommunications Policy for wider stakeholder consideration and comments from the general public. The draft is based on recommendations from consultants, the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) and the Frequency Allocation Board (FAB), as well as telecom operators and organisations. The broad aim of the policy is to implement the government’s ‘vision’ for the sector: ‘Universally available, affordable and quality telecom services provided through open, competitive, and well managed markets and used by all to the benefit of the economy and society.’ The policy covers a range of topics including: competition, licensing, interconnection, right of way, internal networks, infrastructure and resource sharing, quality of service (QoS), universal service provision, research and development (R&D) and satellite services.

Notably, the policy sets out rules to allow for spectrum trading to take place, although it will only be permitted under certain specific conditions. Similarly, operators will be permitted to share spectrum resources, although the MoITT notes that sharing spectrum does not absolve the licensee from any rollout obligations that they might be subject to. Elsewhere, the PTA and the federal government will develop regulatory instruments to enable the provision of voice-over-internet protocol (VoIP) and over-the-top (OTT) services, where the service provider may not have any equipment installed within the territory of Pakistan. These measures must take into consideration the potential requirement for scarce resources (i.e. numbering) and the requirement for lawful interception as well as interconnection and access to emergency services.

The issue of Net Neutrality is also covered, and attempts to reach a compromise between providing operators with commercial options and preventing anti-competitive practices. The draft policy allows internet service providers (ISPs) to throttle and shape traffic on the condition that they provide access to ‘all services without discrimination through the technical characteristics of the service.’ Further, backhaul, transit services and gateways between operator networks may not discriminate between the access provider’s own services, or services that the access provider favours, and other services.