Future of Packetized Voice in Pakistan
ear 2003 brings an end to the PTCL's exclusivity on voice in Pakistan in line with Pakistan's commitments to the WTO regime which demands liberated, competitive telecom markets in the signatory countries.
It is important to note that it is the Pakistan Telecom Authority (PTA) whose activities will be the focus of attention in the post deregulation era. PTCL would (or at least should!) be lowered from the current 'law maker' status to an 'operator' status which is bound by the policies spelt out by the regulatory authority - PTA.
Pakistan's telecom industry - still in its fetal state - is in the midst of a wishful-cum-doubtful status looking towards the elevation of PTA from the current status of 'Team B of PTCL' to that of an 'unbiased, growth- oriented telecom regulator'. Much will depend on how does PTA evolve in this new era from letter to sprit.
Regarding the original issue of VoIP in the post 2003 period, the scene would not be a 'free as a jungle'. The phrase 'liberated market' only applies to a market state where more than one or two players would be able to provider service to the public. How many players would be there and how much 'leveled' field would be provided for a healthy competition for which would ultimately benefit the common man remains to be seen.
As of now, PTA is involving the industry in its consultation process where input from the industry is being taken as to what should the 'laws' look like after the monopoly era is over. More than one licensing models have been put up for discussion each with their own pros and cons.
Of all the complexity, one thing is clear. Internet Telephony is being given the due importance is deserves. While 'unregistered' and 'unlicensed' VoIP termination would still wear the black mask of illegality, the 50+ ISPs of the country would be offered a slightly different license which will give legal cover to the Internet Telephony operations these ISPs might (and most probably would) like to start.