Indian partner unlikely to get Pak tele-licence

Associated Press

Islamabad, July 5:

Pakistan is unlikely to grant a long-distance telephone licence to a company which has an Indian partner because of security concerns, the telecommunications regulator said today.

Century Telecom Ltd, a consortium including Indian phone operator Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd and Pakistani Internet operator Cyber Net, was not among 19 companies shortlisted today to acquire a licence, following the deregulation of Pakistan’s telecoms market. “Our relationship with India is improving, but it is a bit early to give a licence to an Indian company,” Shahzada Alam Malik, chairman Pakistan Telecommunication Authority said after an investors’ conference.

Malik said a security audit is necessary before the authority grants licences to foreign operators, and any Indian company is unlikely to be approved by security agencies.

Representatives of Century Telecom could not be reached for comment. Despite a recent improvement in relations between India and Pakistan after a five-decade rivalry over the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir, mutual distrust still overshadows the potential business opportunities between the two countries. Pakistan opened up its telecom sector for private investment last year to meet a growing demand for telephone services. The country currently has only 4.5 million telephone lines to serve a population of more than 148 million, one of the lowest rates in Asia. Malik said at least 14 new companies are likely to start offering long-distance services in direct competition with the state-run Pakistan Telecom Co Ltd.