PTA set to surpass Rs45.436bn non-tax revenue target

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) Chairman Major General Amir Azim Bajwa (retired) while endorsing that the government needs more revenue, said the Authority will surpass the non-tax revenue target of Rs45.436 billion budgeted for the current financial year 2021-22.

“A briefing was given to the finance minister on the matter of realisation of non-tax revenue by the PTA and was assured that the target set for the current fiscal year would be surpassed,” he added.

The PTA chairman flanked by Muhammad Naveed, Member Finance PTA, Dr Khawar Siddique Khokhar, Member Enforcement and Executive Director Frequency Allocation Board (FAB), Brigadier Mohammed Tahir Ahmed Khan (retired), while briefing media on Monday said that there were issues with TikTok and was banned four times.

He further said that the PTA is contending for improving content moderation, identifying and blocking repeated offender as well as improving mechanism for juvenile monitoring.

He further said that Dark Web is globally a challenge and many crimes are due to it, but there are ways to address it.

He also said that cyber crimes are increasing and establishing cyber crimes-related specific courts could help in reducing the crimes ratio.

He said that the PTA has found anomalies of hidden taxes charged by cellular companies.

He said that showcause notices were issued to the operators and the money was received from them.

He also said that there were multiple risks before the implementation of the DIRBS including causing security risks and rampant smuggling.

Bajwa termed the extra and hidden charges levied on mobile users as unacceptable.

He said that there are clear instructions that consumers could not be charged with extra for ringtone or some other value-added services without prior intimation.

He further said that two telcos were find hefty sums of Rs100 million and Rs50 million for issuing SIMs to unauthorised individuals.

The PTA is actively working to curb ways that allow individuals to obtain SIMs on fake biometric impressions, and added that it seeks to formulate a way to eliminate the practice entirely as it causes serious damage to the masses besides being a matter of national security.

The chairman agreed that there are still instances involving people recording thumb impressions of citizens on silicon or other substances and then replicating them for the issuance of biometric verified SIMs, but acknowledged that the number of such SIMs being sold in the market has decreased notably.

“The number of such illegal sales of SIMs has been brought down by more than 300 percent during past two years alone,” he stated.

He added that the PTA has put several checks on the issuance of new SIMs, and it thoroughly investigates matters involving discrepancies and fixes them responsibly.

Nauman Khalid, director Type Approvals and Device Identification Registration and Blocking System (DIRBS) PTA said the establishment of 26 manufacturing plants has brought in an investment of over $126 million and created over 10,000 jobs in a short span of seven months.

He said government of Pakistan introduced Mobile Manufacturing Policy in June 2020 to encourage local manufacturing.

Subsequently, the PTA issued Mobile Device Manufacturing (MDM) Regulations in 2021, a major milestone in the journey towards “Digital Pakistan”.

As of July 2021, the PTA has issued MDM authorisation to 26 companies, including both foreign and local companies with brands like Samsung, Vivo, Oppo, Nokia, Alcatel, Techno, Infinix etc.

Within seven months of MDM authorisation issuance, 12.48 million mobile devices have been manufactured locally, which includes over five million 4G smart phones. One company has also exported 5,000 “Made in Pakistan” smartphones to the UAE.

Since the implementation of DIRBS, import of mobile devices via legal channels increased by 62 percent with revenue of Rs46.27 billion.

In 2020, 38.14 million devices were imported with revenue of Rs54 billion and in 2021, so far 20.91 million devices have been imported through legal channels.

The PTA has blocked 175,000 device IMEIs reported as stolen through DIRBS.

The system has also identified and blocked 26.03 million fake/replica mobile devices from use on local networks.

Moreover, 880,780 cloned/duplicated IMEIs against 5.28 million MSISDN were identified and blocked.

Connectivity of smartphones on local network has been increased from 35 percent to 51 percent as of July 2021 after implementation of the DIRBS.

Director General Consumer Protection PTA Abdul Samad said that Complaint Management System (CMS) that since November 2018 to September 2021, a total of 480,865 complaints were received and 238,656 resolved.

The PTA launched an automated Lost and Stolen Device System (LSDS) for blocking of lost, stolen and snatched mobile phones in April 2021.

A total of 9,963 blocking/unblocking requests has been received so far.

The PTA launched an automated module of CMS in February 2021 for blocking of mobile handsets, issuing of warnings to fraudsters and blacklisting of CNICs for repeated violation.

A total of 85,472 IMEIs have been blocked, 22,225 warnings issued and 206 CNICs blacklisted, he added.

Samad said that anti-spam filters have been deployed by CMOs to control spamming.

Moreover, outgoing SMS service is blocked automatically in case of exceeding specified threshold (150 SMSs/15 min or 250 SMSs/1hr or 1,000 SMSs/24hrs).

He said out of 53,037 complaints received through Pakistan Citizen Portal, 96.7 percent of complaints have been addressed.

The PTA holds a 60 percent satisfaction rate in this matter.

Mohammad Farooq, director Web Analysis and Content Management PTA said that the authority is facing issues in regulating content as all popular social media (SM) platforms are hosted outside Pakistan, lack of undertaking on part of these platforms especially in blasphemous/sectarian, decency and immorality and defamatory content is not entertained in majority cases.

He said that so far, a total of 1,114,001 URL blocking complaints on platforms such as: Dailymotion, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, YouTube and other miscellaneous platforms have been processed. 1,046,036 URLs have been blocked. As per law, the PTA has a responsibility to protect citizens from online harm in accordance with its local laws and societal norms.

He further said that in October 2020, the federal government notified rules as required under section 37 (2) of PECA 2016, were notified; however, the same were subsequently challenged in Islamabad High Court.

Currently, the rules are under review by a Committee constituted by the prime minister.

A committee has been constituted by the prime minister of Pakistan to give recommendations on rules, after hearing the concerns of all the stakeholders.

Mohammad Arif Sargana, DG Commercial said that Pakistan has 48,958 cell sites including 82 percent supporting 4G services.

He further said that telecom industry revenue was Rs630.4 billion in 2020-21 in including cellular mobile operators contribution of Rs461.7 billion.

Further, telecom contribution to exchequer was Rs218.8 billion in 2020-21 compared to Rs290 billion in 2019-20.

Total telecom investment was $901 million in 2020-21.

He further said that the number of mobile wallets (by March 2021) was 66,542, with expected transactions of 2,377,492 and value of transactions (expected 2021) was Rs7,449 billion, he added.—TAHIR AMIN