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High-level body may recommend industry status for telecom sector

The high-level committee on cellular companies’ issues is likely to recommend industry status for telecom sector and reduction in taxes to the prime minister, it has been learnt.

The government has constituted a 14-member committee to address the issues of cellular mobile operators, and formulate recommendations for onward submission to the prime minister.

Sources revealed that the committee had further constituted sub-groups on various issues including spectrum allocation, reduction in taxes, industry status, right of way (RoW), and directed to firm up proposals.

Talking to Business Recorder, Shoaib Ahmed Siddiqui, who chairs the committee, stated that final recommendations were likely to be submitted to the Prime Minister’s Office next month.

He further said that some additional proposals and suggestions were sought from telecom operators were yet to be received.

Siddiqui further said that operators were demanding industry status as well as reduction in taxes and additional spectrum.

Some issues have already been raised with various concerned departments, while some are related to policy matters and recommendations would be finalised soon, he added.

In line with directions of the prime minister, the committee on issues of cellular mobile operators was formed to evaluate the issues of cellular mobile operators and formulate recommendations for onward submission to the Prime Minister’s Office including settlement of license renewal matters with cellular mobile operators that will help the government in valuable income generation in the current crisis situation.

Matters related to, additional spectrum allocation in Pakistan and AJK and GB, mutually agreed license renewal frameworks, tax rationalization, RoW and reduction of NADRA biometric verification charges have been raised.

Sources said that the NADRA was requested to reduce charges of biometric verification of SIM especially in view of this situation resulted after COVID-19 in the country.

Representative of the NADRA has sought sometime to discuss the matter with its chairman and board.

The official further said that Ministry of Industries and Production agreed to the proposal that telecom sector should be given functional industry status. The telecom operators shared serious interest in additional spectrum auction in Pakistan and AJK and GB to facilitate quality mobile broadband services necessary to assist people especially students and professionals to work from home, and comply with COVID-19-related advisory.

The stakeholders emphasized the need for urgent availability of required spectrum in Pakistan and AJK and GB and that Ministry of Kashmir Affairs and Northern Areas has already been sensitized to take lead on the matter for their respective areas in line with applicable laws.

It was decided that proposals shall be prepared for withdrawal of withholding tax for 90 days as a relief for cellular consumers during this situation in addition to the tax harmonization between federation and provinces regarding the FED/GST.

The chair has directed the PTA and the telecom industry to work together to firm up proposals regarding data pricing to avoid abuse of service.

―Business Recorder

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