ISLAMABAD, Oct 25: The whole society has become so dependent on mobile communications that suspending it for a day causes public anger and the industry billions of rupees.
The recent hint from the government to suspend cellular services on Eidul Azha has upset both people and industry.
“The industry lost Rs1 billion, the last two times the mobile services were suspended,” said an official with Telenor, explaining how the suspension also had a huge social impact on the end consumer.
The government had suspended cellular services in major cities twice during the months of August and September.
Between August 19 and 20, 2012, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) suspended cellular services in four cities on the night of Eidul Fitr between 7:30pm and 11am, citing terror threats as reasons.
And then on September 21, 2012, cellular services were suspended in 16 cities on the day of protests against the anti-Islam film on Youtube between 12am and 6pm.
The 15.5 hours suspension of mobile services the first time and 18 hours the second time cost the government exchequer between Rs200 to Rs300 million.
An official with the Edhi Foundation, AD Khan said that numerous callers complained that they had tried to reach Edhi Centre but could not in the twin cities.
“In most cases, callers wanted to request for ambulances for incidents related to heart problems and blood pressure problems,” said Edhi representative.
The cellular industry maintained that over the past few years, mobile industry had been facing numerous challenges.
These included energy shortages, increasing energy cost, security related costs and other concerns.
One concern is discriminatory taxation (with tax on the industry being highest in the region, which is 33 per cent) and hyper-competitive market, resulting in rates which are among the lowest around the globe.
Officials associated with the cellular industry claimed that because of these challenges, the industry’s cumulative losses amount to billions of rupees.
“Looking at the past two incidents, it looks like suspension of service is becoming a norm for the government. Service suspension causes inconvenience and losses to subscribers who have started completely relying on mobile services. People rely on mobile services for their livelihood and for keeping in touch with their loved ones,” said an official with Telenor, explaining how calls around and on Eid days double and short messages triple.
Spokesperson for Mobilink, Omar Manzoor said that there were no other updates, except for the Sindh High Courts directions barring the government from suspending phone services.
The spokesperson for PTA Malahat Rab said: “All directions come from the Ministry of Interior.
There are no directions to suspend cellular services yet.”