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Pakistan’s IT Minister Envisions Possible Entry for Starlink and Web1

Dr. Umar Saif, the Caretaker Federal Minister for IT and Telecommunication in Pakistan, is optimistic about the entry of satellite communication entities like Starlink and Web1 into the country following the approval of the National Space Policy.

Private companies will now be permitted to use low-orbit satellites in Pakistan, with international companies requiring a no-objection certificate from the defence ministry to launch satellite communication services. Dr. Saif mentioned that these companies can utilize low-orbit satellites for efficient internet services, provided they contribute 6% to research and development (R&D).

The minister also highlighted the facilitation of routing freelancers’ remittances through third parties with the assistance of PayPal. Additionally, initiatives such as laying the groundwork for launching 5G services in Pakistan by the next financial year were discussed. Dr. Saif emphasized that the ministry has reserved 300 MHz spectrum for the launch of 5G technologies, with a consultant hired to assess the potential for the upcoming spectrum auction.

Regarding the acquisition of Telenor Pakistan by PTCL and its impact on competition among existing players, the minister mentioned the establishment of an auction supervisory committee. This committee will determine whether auction payments should be made in US dollars or rupees, and a consultant will set the benchmark for the auction price based on the current market environment.

Dr. Saif declined to provide an assessment of the auction benchmark but mentioned that the ministry is prepared to launch various digital initiatives, including routing remittances through PayPal via a third party, offering smartphones on easy installments, and conducting standardized quality tests for IT graduates.

While PayPal is not directly coming to Pakistan, an agreement has been reached to channel remittances through a third party, with the formal launching ceremony scheduled for January 11. The minister emphasized the government’s efforts to boost IT and telecom sector exports, stating that the sector’s exports are currently $2.6 billion but effectively reach around $5 billion due to expenses for international employees and monthly costs for cloud hosting, marketing, and sales.

Dr. Saif highlighted policy interventions in collaboration with the SIFC and State Bank of Pakistan, allowing IT companies to retain 50% of their export revenue in dollars in a Pakistani account. This enables them to cover international expenses without restrictions, resulting in a 13% increase in export revenue in one month. He also mentioned upcoming initiatives by telecom companies to provide the latest phone models in easy installments, with the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) using the Device Identification, Registration, and Blocking System (DIRBS) to block handsets in case of installment failure.

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