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Cell phone operators spell out hardships

Updated July 12, 2013

LAHORE, July 11: The cellular mobile operators (CMOs) have brought to the knowledge of the Ministry of Information and Technology that they have been facing “severe problems” in installation of cell sites at the areas falling under the Cantonment boards, Defence Housing Authority and Civil Aviation Authority.

In a letter to MoIT State Minister Anusha Rehman Khan, Mobilink, Ufone, Zong, Telenor and Warid say they have been facing “severe hardships” in procurement and protection of “Right of Way” for their respective BTS towers from various local authorities, which has been provided to the CMOs under Section 27-A of the Pakistan Telecommunication (Re-organization) Act 1996.

“The uncontrolled escalation in NOC fee and other charges imposed by the Cantonment boards and DHAs has resulted in the CMOs being pushed into a position against their will to increase tariffs drastically to meet the increased cost of providing services.

“The situation escalated to such an extent that the CMOs feared not only a reduction in quality of service which cannot be compromised upon, but also a significant loss of revenue as well as difficulties for consumers to avail mobile telecommunication services,” the letter says.

The operators alleged the BTS towers installed in the areas under the control of the said authorities were often damaged as a “coercive measure” to ensure increase in demand for payment of ‘illegal’ fees thus halting the cellular service provision in certain areas that resulted in huge financial losses (for CMOs).

“The cellular industry is paying about Rs1 billion annually to different local authorities to keep the BTS towers operational. Such actions of the local authorities are further in contempt of stay orders that have been granted by different high courts to protect the said BTS tower sites.”

The letter further says the Civil Aviation Authority has been “too aggressive” in increasing its rentals as the CMOs have almost no choices for installation of BTS Tower sites to provide coverage to the passengers in and outside the lounges of various airports of Pakistan.

“We seek a level playing field where the ground does not keep shifting constantly, which makes it impossible for any form of financial planning on a long-term basis,” it says.

The five CMOs have requested the minister to play her role for the resolution of this genuine issue.