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Mobile Operators Warn of Shutting Down Cellular and Internet Services

The telecom industry has warned the government that connectivity problems could arise

The telecom industry has warned the government that connectivity problems could arise if high fuel prices and strict conditions on battery imports, as well as prolonged power outages, continue.

Leading cellular mobile operators Jazz, Telenor, PTCL, and Ufone in a letter to the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) said that backup power should be available in the form of generators and batteries, media reported. Despite this, it seems almost impossible for cellular operators to deal with these prolonged power outages.

The letter was written to draw the attention of the telecom regulator to some of the key factors in the economy that are a direct impediment and are feared to meet operators’ current service quality obligations, key performance indicators as well as new licenses. Under the terms, our network will further affect our ability to meet rollout responsibilities.

He also lamented that the rapidly rising fuel prices were creating additional barriers to the provision of generator backups for their base transceiver station sites.

In addition, this extra fuel consumption for backup was going against the government’s ‘goal of rationalizing fuel consumption during these trial times, making it a major challenge for operators to maintain network availability.

The letter also stressed that the situation has worsened after the State Bank of Pakistan imposed a 100% cash margin ban on imports of network/backup devices, including batteries.

The letter said the situation severely damaged the ability of CMOs to roll out more sites to meet the standard of licensed service requirements but more backup capacity to cope with extended power outages.

Telecom companies noted that recent financial and political developments have further affected the deteriorating shape of the country’s already capitalist telecom sector and called on the PTA to provide the necessary telecom services to the public.

Operators also told the PTA that if power outages and other issues were not addressed, they would be forced to abide by the agreement in special circumstances.

Speaking to the website, Amir Ibrahim, Chief Executive Officer of Jazz, said that the backup systems used by telecom companies were not designed for prolonged power outages, to ensure continuous improvement in service quality and broadband.

A policy and regulatory environment that enables mobile operators to stay financially healthy are essential to enhance services.

A senior CMO executive told Dawn that the high price of diesel has put a financial burden on the industry as telecom towers and back-end devices use either generators or backup batteries.

He said that if the current situation persists, some towers could be blacked out, which could disrupt telephone and data services in the area.

Irfan Wahab Khan, CEO of Telenor Pakistan, told Dawn that the biggest losers would be the Pakistani people who would be plunged into darkness at a time when the world is rapidly moving towards a digital economy.

“Unless the government joins our collective efforts to ensure connectivity for every Pakistani, Pakistan’s industry and people will be at a disadvantage. Without connectivity, our information technology ambitions will not be achieved,” he said. Our progress towards becoming a fully digital economy will be slow.

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