In light of the powers conferred under section 4(i) and 5(h) of the Pakistan Telecommunication (Re-organization) Act 1996, the authority is empowered to make arrangements, to provide guidelines and determine the terms among Telecommunication Service Providers (TSP) where such licensees/service provider unable to agree upon such terms.
There are two types of claims an operator/service provider/licensee can file before the authority which are as;
1. An interconnection arrangement – interconnection arrangements are those contracts or agreements between the licensees in order to interconnect their networks and exchange telecommunication traffic/data/information for protection and promotion of interest of users and promotion of high quality telecommunication services.
2. A dispute arising out of an interconnection agreement.
Principles of Interconnection:
● All the operators are required to provide interconnection to the other operator and permitted at any technical or economical point subject to the additional cost.
● Interconnection and other related services shall be provided on the basis of unbundled network elements.
● An operator shall not discriminate the terms of interconnection so an operator is required to offer the same interconnection terms to other operators as compared to its own.
● interconnection terms of an operator shall be open to access to all operators other than the confidential stuff which will be determined by the PTA.
● Charges of interconnection services must be cost oriented.
● An operator shall pay the cost to the other operator when interconnecting.
● Cost of USO and APC shall not include the cost of interconnection.
● There must be an efficient competition in interconnection arrangements.
Request for Interconnection:
All the licensed operators shall have a right to interconnect with the other licensed operator. A requesting operator shall submit its demand in written form to the requested operator and shall provide following information to the requested operator:
● Corporate and credential
● Types of services of the requesting operator
● Number and issuance date of the license
● Types of services for which interconnection is requested
● Required numbers and location of POIs
● Physical nature of the link
● Housing aspect of POIs
● Period for which interconnection is required
● All details regarding technical interfaces, area of operation and network architecture etc.
● Any other information which the requesting operator is considers important
Response to Interconnection Request:
The requested operator shall respond to the requesting operator in written form in the following manner:
● In case of full acceptance, the response shall be conveyed within 30 days and the requested operator shall give full information regarding negotiation and implementation of the plan.
● In case of partial acceptance, the requested operator shall respond within 20 days showing its willingness along with its points of interest or disputes.
● In case of denial, the requested operator shall respond in detail within 15 days.
Denial of Request:
The requested operator shall give the reasons of denial along with supporting facts and if the denial is temporary it shall give the timeline for such period. Further, the requested operator shall have a right to deny the request on the following conditions:
● If it believes that the requesting operator shall not comply with the terms of interconnection agreement.
● If the requested operator is unable to provide interconnection because of its insufficient capacity.
● If requested operator believes that interconnection would pose a material risk to the safety of telecommunication infrastructure, if provided.
● If the interconnection request is not in the interest of users.
● If the interconnection request is against the interest of the national security or sovereignty of Pakistan.
If the requesting operator considers such denial unlawful or baseless then the requesting operator shall have a right to approach Pakistan Telecommunication Authority for adjudication upon the matter.
After acceptance of the request both the parties shall draft and sign an interconnection agreement and the same shall be submitted within 07 days of signing the agreement and the Authority within 60 days shall approve the draft agreement.
The Authority shall consider the following factors;
● The interconnection agreement is not contrary to the Act, Rules, Guidelines and other relevant laws.
● The interconnection agreement is consistent with the objective of the Telecommunication Policy.
● The interconnection agreement is not against the interest of the users and other licensed operators. After approval of said agreement from the Authority, both the parties shall sign an agreement duly prepared on the stamp paper and shall submit a certified copy to the Authority within 07 days.
If the Authority does not approve the draft agreement it shall inform the parties with the reasons in detail within 60 days and the parties have 14 days time to overcome the deficiencies and resubmit the draft agreement but if the Authority fails to inform within such time, the same shall be considered approved. After the successful approval, the interconnection shall be carried out within 30 days of the approval.
Before proceeding with the claim filed by the operator, the authority shall direct the parties for pre-admission negotiation. This process of negotiation must be finalized within fifteen days and if the result of negotiation remains unsuccessful then the claim of the operator shall stand admitted for hearing and the parties will be directed to proceed in accordance with the law.
Filing of Claims and Admission:
● An operator may file a Claim with the Authority in the prescribed manner if that operator (claimant) is unable to reach agreement with the respondent.
● The standing case officer shall within three days of filing, place the claim before the Authority along with a non-binding recommendation for admission.
● The Authority shall admit the Claim for hearing upon being satisfied the pre-conditions.
● The decision on admission of the Claim shall be taken within seven days of filing of the Claim.
● If admission of the Claim is declined, the Claimant may re-file the Claim after removing the deficiency.
● Authority shall from amongst its officers and consultants designate a case management team comprising not less than two members.
● The case management team shall manage and progress the proceedings with regard to the receiving pleadings and application, record evidence, issue information directions etc.
● Upon admission of the Claim, the Authority shall nominate one of its members to be the presiding officer for the first hearing and the final hearing.
● If the Authority considers that negotiations may enable the parties to reach agreement, the Authority may, instead of admitting the Claim (admission) for hearing, direct the parties to enter into negotiations.
● The Authority may require that one or more stages of negotiations be conducted in the presence of one or more members of the case management team.
● If the parties remain unable to reach agreement after negotiations as stated above, the Claim shall stand admitted for hearing.
Upon admission of a Claim for hearing:
● A copy of the Claim shall be served by the case management team to the Respondent with a direction to submit a Reply within 15 days.
● After the admission of the Claim for hearing, a date shall be notified by the case management team to the parties for the first hearing.
● At least three days before the date of the first hearing, the parties shall file a statement of objections to admissibility of evidence and a statement of the understanding reached between the parties.
● At the first hearing, the presiding officer shall invite the parties to refer to the then current version of the guidelines made by the Authority.
● The presiding officer may indicate the likely views of the Authority on particular matters arising out of the pleadings.
● If the parties are unable to reach agreement at the conclusion of the first hearing, the proceedings shall stand adjourned for a date to be notified subsequently by the case management team.
● At the final hearing, the parties shall state their positions by referring to their pleadings in the context of the scope of dispute.
● Except for good cause, a party shall not be allowed to refer to any evidence or material not made part of its pleadings or address any argument on any matter not sufficiently expressed in its pleadings.
● A party may address oral arguments only on matters announced by the presiding officer at the outset of the final hearing as requiring oral arguments.
● The parties may be directed to conduct their respective cases and examine and cross-examine witnesses within the time limits set and conveyed to the parties in the form of a hearing timetable at least three days before the final hearing by the case management team. Evidence:
● Oral evidence in support of the Claim, the Reply or an application shall be given by affidavit attached with the Claim, the Reply or the application, the witness shall be made available at the final hearing for cross-examination.
● Documentary evidence shall be filed in legible copy.
● All hearings shall be audio recorded.
● The case management team shall prepare written transcripts of all hearings.
● A written transcript shall be circulated to the parties within seven days after the hearing.
● Conversations, argumentative discussions and oral or written evidence copies whereof have been provided to the parties shall not be recorded in the written transcripts and a summary shall be recorded instead.
● The final decision of the Authority shall be announced within 60 days.
● The final decision may specify the time limit within which compliance therewith is to be reported to the Authority.
● A party failing to comply with the final decision within the time limit specified therein may be proceeded against under section 23 of the Act.