Telecoms face Aug 21 deadline for licence renewal

Updated 01 Aug 2019

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The licences expired over two months ago on May 25. — AFP/File
The licences expired over two months ago on May 25. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: Telecom giants Jazz and Telenor remain confident that their services will not be disrupted, much less discontinued, after August 21, the deadline set by the regulator for them to renew their licence by paying an amount that both operators dispute as the charges for renewal.

The Aug 21 deadline was set last week after Pakistan Telecommu­nication Authority (PTA) and two mobile operators — Telenor and Jazz — were unable to agree on a price to renew their licences.

The licences, which the two companies acquired in 2004 through an auction at a cost of $291 million or approximately Rs17 billion then, expired over two months ago on May 25.

Now the government is demanding a sum of $450m for their renewal. The figure apparently has been calculated using the spectrum auctions that took place in 2016 and 2017 as a benchmark.

However, in May, Jazz challenged the new licence price for renewal in the court where the matter is still pending.

The company maintained that it sought to have the licence renewed as per the original terms as well as the Telecom Policy of 2015.

According to sources in the industry, the court had asked PTA to withdraw the June 25 deadline to renew licences and instead address the grievances of the cellular operators by July 15.

While the operators still feel that their reservations have not yet been resolved, PTA has again submitted its response with the court, which is no different from the previous stance and carries the same terms and conditions, asking operators to pay the $450m price.

“Now the ball is in the court of operators who have to decide on how to respond. The operators have three ways out: we can either agree to the higher renewal fees for the spectrum, challenge it in the court again or request the regulatory body for further extension,” an official in Telenor said on the basis of anonymity, explaining that after the Aug 21 deadline, operators will have to pay the licence renewal fee with penalty.

Published in Dawn, August 1st, 2019