ECC approves Telecom Policy 2015 for benefit of people, economy

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ISLAMABAD, Dec 11 (APP): The Economic Coordination Committee of the Cabinet (ECC) on Friday approved the Telecommunications Policy 2015 aimed at availability of universal, affordable and quality telecommunication services.

These services will be provided through open, competitive and well managed markets which can be used by people to the benefit of the economy and society.

The ECC met here under the chairmanship of Finance Minister Senator Mohammad Ishaq Dar approved the Telecommunications Policy 2015 under the provision of Section 8 of Pakistan Telecommunication (Re-organization) Act, 1996 (Amended 2006).

The ECC had earlier considered the Policy draft on August 12, 2015 and directed Ministry of IT to further review the draft in light of suggestions made during the meeting.

Finance Minister in his remarks appreciated the efforts of the M/o Information Technology for carrying out wide-ranging consultations and developing consesus on the Policy.

He expressed the hope that Telecommunications Policy 2015 will boost the Telecommunications as well as ancillary ICT sector markets spur socio economic evelopment and will act as a catalyst towards achieving knowledge-based society with digital inclusion of all segments of the society.

The Ministry of IT carried out necessary consultations and draft policy was modified accordingly.

The Telecommunication Sector of Pakistan was deregulated in 2003, through the introduction of Deregulation Policy (2003), whereby the licensing regime for fixed telecommunication was established and market was opened for private sector to deploy network facilities and services.

Subsequently, in 2004, Mobile Cellular and Broadband Policies were introduced.

These policies were subject to review after five years of issuance, which could not be done during the term of the previous government.

Due to emerging trends in telecommunication sector, changes in market character and its structure, the review and integration of policies was imperative.

Therefore, the elected Government, after taking office in June 2013, took up this task on highest priority basis.

The Telecommunications Policy 2015 is an outcome of extensive consultations and conformations with international best practices.

Foremost importance has been given to the views of stakeholders to ensure the element of inclusiveness in the policy.

The vision articulated in the policy is availability of universal, affordable and quality telecommunication services provided through open, competitive and well-managed markets which can be used by people to the benefit of the economy and society.

The policy includes various new elements like competition framework, spectrum strategy, spectrum sharing, satellite communication, Over the Top services, convergence etc., which were not present in earlier policies.

It is expected that competition framework will make telecom market more efficient in terms of quality of service and choice of services available to the consumers.

Major new element of the new policy relates to provision of a wholesome treatment for frequency spectrum management in the country.

The provisions like spectrums strategy, refarming, market mechanisms for more efficient use of spectrum coupled with provisions on infrastructure sharing will facilitate governing this scarce resource in a more efficient and market-oriented manner which will ultimately benefit the users and spur further investments in the country.

This policy also appreciates the phenomena of convergence related to delivery of diverse services belonging to the domains of telecom, media and data services.

Roadmap for achieving convergence on both market and regulatory sides has been provided.

Satellite communications and provision of bandwidth and retail broadband and telecoms through this medium have for the first time been addressed to structure and further grow the segment.

Proper business flow under set parameters will provide more clarity to satellite telecoms based businesses while ensuring appropriate compliances.

Enhanced and more innovative roles of Universal Service and Research and Development Funds are envisioned which are aimed at ubiquitous development of infrastructure and services across the country and promotion of demand driven and high impact research and innovation development activities in Pakistan.

The Universal Service Fund (USF) will be utilized for provisioning of telephony, internet, broadband services and establishment of telecenters in underserved and unserved areas.

Special projects to cater for specific needs of people related to telecommunication and ICTs will be undertaken.

Provision of broadband access to education institutes and health care institutions is also made part of mandate of USF.

Under this policy operators are enabled to deploy Wi Fi hot spots for public use.