I saw this news at a local paper that ISPs have lashed out strongly against PCL. The ISPs lodged complaint against PTCL for anti-competitive practices by offering lower rates to consumers than the rates it offers to ISP. I also saw this statement by the PM that 75% of house-holds in the country are to be covered with high speed Internet by 2015.

I am not sure what to make of these contradictory statements from the Telecommunication day on May 17.

The last time I checked PTA and PTCL were still in court about the bandwidth tariffs. If one was to look at the low bandwidth penetration rate and all the issues such as the ISP complaint described below, we are still in a poor shape. So HOW in the world are we going to go from say 2% to 75% in 7 years?

As you can note from the statements by Prime Minister, it does not specify an action plan or a policy change – just empty political statements. Does it give us any confidence about bandwidth proliferation in Pakistan?

Shaukat Aziz has said that we are moving forward with great speed to bridge the digital divide in the country by improving the access of information and communication technology to low-income groups and a target of 1.6 million broadband connections has been set for the next three years and infrastructure would be developed to cover 75% of house-holds in the country with high speed Internet by 2015.

“We are moving forward with great speed to bridge the digital divide in the country by improving the access of information and communication technology to low-income groups”, he expressed these views while delivering a speech on the world telecommunications and information society day being observed on May 17.

And then there’s the view from Pakistan’s Internet Service Providers (ISPs), as reported in The News.

As the world marks Telecom Day on Thursday, small telecom operators in Pakistan see their business threatened, blaming the giant Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL) for anti-competitive practices, which has launched DSL service at much lower rates without the regulator’s approval.

The country’s Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have warned that if the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) fails to stop the PTCL from offering such service, it would put the future of most of the operators at risk.

It was also reported that the ISPs Association of Pakistan (ISPAK) has formally complained to PTA asking to intervene and to play its role. According to ISPAK there should be a hearing on this. The ISPs offerDSL services of 256 kbps for home users at Rs1,00o-s1,200 per month out of which around 25 per cent is paid to PTCL for local loop sharing charges.

“Ironically, PTCL’s Internet bandwidth rates for ISPs for 256, 512 and 1024 kbps bandwidth are manifold higher than its DSL offerings to other customers. Given the huge difference between above prices and the fact that PTCL is selling Internet bandwidth to ISPs at much higher rates, it is very clear that PTCL has full subtle intentions to kill private ISPs and wipe them out of competition,” added the ISPAK letter.

Here’s the rest.

Introduced in late 90s, DSL (digital subscriber line) service entered the country with a bang, but later failed to thrive as higher cost and lower than standard quality hampered the anticipated growth of the technology.

The DSL broadband is a modern technology that converts existing twisted pair telephone lines into access path for high-speed communication of various sorts. By using the technology regular telephone line can be converted into a high-speed broadband digital link.

DSL is faster than both ISDN (integrated services digital network) and leased line, yet it is more cost-effective. DSL Internet connection is ‘always on’, and the users have unlimited access to the Internet.

The downloading speed can be 10 times higher compared to regular downloading speed of an analogue modem. In addition, with one line users can be connected to both telephone and the Internet.

The ISPs and PTCL have a history of such clash of interests over the DSL services and recent episodes appear as part of the same conflict.

“Although PTCL has offered volumetric packages (limited GBs per month) which are comparable with packages of other ISPs, it has also made a special offer of ‘unlimited download for 3 months from service activation,” said the ISPAK.

It said the ISP industry of the country had already been facing severe hardships due to various anti-competitive moves and strong-arm tactics by PTCL such as cross-subsidising Paknet – an ISP of the PTCL – for undercutting other operators.

It said blocking of the PTA’s decisions by the PTCL on bandwidth and local loop sharing tariffs reduction through legal process had also deprived the ISPs from the due benefits.

“Due to reasons mentioned many ISPs have been forced to shut down their operations during the past 3-4 years resulting in negative growth of Internet and broadband in the country,” added the ISPAK.

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