Pakistani business community, bloggers and consumers have been asking for a sensible VOIP policy for a long time. Finally we see a glimmer of hope – PTA has published a consultancy paper on VOIP which invites comments by all. The 58-page – written by a consultant, Naseem A. Vohra – is a good summary of VOIP technology and VOIP situation in Pakistan. You can download the paper in pdf format from PTA site or from telecompk blog.

The paper addresses legal issues, policy issues and issues related to licensing and regulation of the service. Even though comments are inivited on this paper I doubt that anyone at PTA is eagerly waiting for the comments.  But even if the fate of our input is unclear this is no reason to not participate in the process. This may be the best time to provide your input and feedback to VOIP policy. I suggest that all bloggers aggregate their reader comments on this topic and send to PTA – perhaps on paper, just in case PTA has difficulty using the complex technologies of e-mail or Internet.

Here are a few excerpts from the paper. The idea is to give you the flavor of what points are raised and options presented. One has to go through the paper to make sense of some of the points below.

There are four options to deal with the situation.
1. Liberalized option – all forms of IP Telephony service are legal with minimal regulation.
2. Incremental option – some forms of IP Telephony service are legal with significant conditions placed upon IP Telephony entrants.
3. Consultation (largely “wait and see”) – a public consultation is underway to seek opinions before definitive rules on IP Telephony are issued;
4. Prohibition – IP Telephony is illegal except for use in the core network i.e. long distance and international networks which almost all LDI operators have deployed but it does not touch the customer.

Comments are invited on
i) Conclusion that option3 and option 4 are not viable anymore
ii) Conclusion that VoB will catalyze the growth of Broadband.

Comments are invited on
i) Conclusion that telecom sector in Pakistan has already started migration from circuit switching to packet switching
ii) Conclusion that the boundary between VOIP and gray traffic is not clearly defined
iii) Conclusion that regulation of IP Telephony will not push the prices further down

Comments are invited on
i) Conclusion that Incremental Approach is the right way to go.
ii) Proposal that IP Telephony offerings are placed under three categories
iii) Proposal that category 2 offerings are split into two types i.e. “IP IN” and “IP OUT”.
iv) Proposed recommendations for IP Telephony authorization.
v) Proposed amendment in Broadband/Internet Licenses