Internet service providers (ISPs) in Pakistan are expressing growing concerns about the delays in licence renewal by the country’s telecom regulator, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA). The Wireless Internet Service Providers Association of Pakistan (WISPAP) has recently voiced these concerns during its meeting, particularly highlighting the PTA’s reluctance to renew licences for ISPs, classified as Class Value Added Services (CVAS). Currently, around 250 operators with CVAS licences play a crucial role in supplying data to both retail and wholesale consumers.
Shehzad Arshad, Chairman of WISPAP, has raised the issue, calling on the PTA to expedite the renewal process for CVAS licences. He also emphasized the need for modernizing regulations to foster the establishment of local internet exchanges within the country. Arshad expressed concerns about potential lobbying efforts by large bandwidth suppliers to acquire retail businesses, possibly influencing the PTA’s hesitancy in renewing CVAS licences.
Furqan Naveed Ahmed, Project Director at WISPAP, has echoed these concerns and urged the government to take action in establishing internet exchanges in Pakistan. Currently, the country’s internet traffic is routed through exchanges located in Dubai or Singapore. Ahmed stressed the importance of the Ministry of Information Technology persuading investors to set up exchanges within Pakistan. This, he believes, would not only modernize the internet industry but also reduce foreign exchange outflows to foreign-based internet exchanges.
Highlighting successful examples from other developing countries like India and Bangladesh, Ahmed pointed out that establishing multiple internet exchanges locally has enhanced internet speed and reduced costs. The push for licence renewals and modernization is part of a broader effort by ISPs to ensure a vibrant and competitive internet landscape in Pakistan, addressing key challenges and paving the way for industry growth.