Suspension of mobile services for security reasons on Eid-ul-Azha
Telecommunication service providers bear Rs 100 million loss
Karachi (DailyTimes Lahore / Wednesday, October 31, 2012) – Cellular mobile services remained suspended of Eid-ul-Azha for almost 4 hours in major cities of Pakistan. Mobile telecommunication service providers have incurred an estimated loss of nearly Rs 100 million due to four to five hours suspension of services on the first day of Eidul Azha following the directives of Pakistan Telecommunication Authority and Interior Ministry.
Officials of different telecommunication service providers said that the sector faced losses on the closure of services in the selected areas.
The telecommunication service providers services were suspended in three major cities in Punjab and Sindh including Karachi, Rawalpindi, Multan, three areas in Islamabad and 20 cities of Balochistan, several parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Federally Administered Tribal Areas and Gilgit Baltistan.
There was no terrorist incident reported on the occasion of Eidul Fitr but people suffered on these two occasions, which are also two major seasons of booming business for telecommunication service providers, an official of telecommunication service providers said on the condition of anonymity.
The alternative communication services such as wireless, landline services and Internet were used by a section of customers in big cities. If customers could use alternative services so terrorists could also use those, hence, there is no logic to shutdown services and force operators to face losses, an official of a cell phone company said.
If Eid prayers are taking place in one area at 7:30am, people assemble and segregate within an hour in particular areas, he further said. It is useless to suspend services for four to five hours in the name of security measures because the government can reduce the risk of terrorists’ attacks through different measures. The telecommunication service providers did not only incur losses on the temporary shutdown of services but they had to pay extra cost through deployment of their officials on the network to switch on and off the services as per directives of PTA.
There are thousands of Base Transceiver Stations (BTS) towers in the selected areas where services were ordered to remain suspended on Eidul Azha. In this regard, companies have deployed extra workers or assigned overtime for complying emergency orders of the government.
Our company has centralised system connecting master towers of different regions with BTS to operational headquarter, an official of telecommunication service provider said. The switching off and on situations need to be completed with accuracy, rapidly and technically which takes normally 200 hours of labour additionally of officials of high calibre related to technical, managerial and vigilance skills.
The extra staff members were deputed on extra allowances particularly on the occasion of Eid that ensured suspension and restoration of services to millions of customers through hundreds of cell sites.
Besides few companies having operating system of Network Switching Centres (NSC) regularly keep vigilance to put services off and on through technical and high-tech programming, which is in fact a hectic work for operators in the given timeline.
Our company had to bear expenses of extra technical work, which is included in the losses of telecommunication service provider, an official of another cell phone company said.
The telecommunication service providers carried out closure of services earlier in four to 15 cities for 10 to 12 hours. According to an industry estimate, the cellular sector incurred Rs 1 billion loss after services were called off on the directives of the Interior Ministry in August and September on Eidul Fitr and Love Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) Day.
The telecommunication service providers jointly approached Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) a couple of weeks ago and claimed the financial loss of Rs 1 billion as per law but no pledge and clue has been shown so far by the authority.
An official of the cellular sector said that the government should take alternative measures to tighten the security and avert untoward incidents instead of pushing foreign companies to face losses. It seems that the government has chosen a single option of shutting down telecommunication services on every sensitive situation, and services suspension will be made in future mainly in the name of security, an official added.