Auditor describes Warid, PTCL LTE services as ‘unlawful’; calls for investigation

6 Oct 2016

An audit report from government accountability and transparency agency the Auditor General of Pakistan (AGP) has claimed that Pakistan Telecommunication Company Ltd (PTCLK) and Warid Telecom caused losses of PKR100 billion (USD948.8 million) to the national exchequer by offering 3G and 4G mobile services without the necessary licences, ProPakistani writes. The AGP said that sector regulator the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority’s (PTA’s) responses to queries on the matter were ‘unconvincing’, adding that the situation would be investigated properly, with disciplinary action to be taken against the responsible parties.

The AGP alleges that the PTA’s decision to permit Warid Telecom to offer LTE services using its existing spectrum allocation was unlawful, as the operator did not hold a Next Generation Mobile Service (NGMS) licence and had not participated in the tender for 4G spectrum. According to the AGP, the PTA’s move deprived state coffers of a potential PKLR51.692 billion in licence fees. The watchdog had defended its position last year, claiming that it had the authority to make the decision and had done so in the national interest, but the arguments were rejected by the AGP, which asserted that the PTA did not have the power to alter policy and should have taken the matter to the federal government.

For its part, PTCL has been offering LTE services through its Charji Evo offerings, again without having paid for 4G licences. The operator claimed in September 2015 that it was permitted to do so, as its concessions were technology neutral. The AGP dismissed the operator’s argument as ‘misleading’ however, re-stating that the provider did not have a licence to provide 4G LTE services and, as such, had caused a loss of PKR42.600 billion to the government.