PTA responds to VRG’s ‘misleading’ allegations, says committed to early launch of AMA scheme

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) said on Tuesday that it remains committed to ensuring the early commercial launch of the Asaan Mobile Account (AMA) scheme, subject to fulfilment of all technical parameters as defined in TPSP license, related IM and subsequent clarifications.

Earlier this month, Virtual Remittance Gateway Pvt Ltd (VRG), through advertisements in the press, had claimed that it is “commercially operational for AMA scheme with Jazz and SCO”.

Reacting on the ad campaign, PTA had last week issued a clarification on its official Twitter handle, stating that it has not yet issued any commencement certificate to VRG for commercial operations of AMA scheme in Pakistan.

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On this, VRG issued a statement claiming that ad was only to create awareness among the masses on the occasion of ‘Independence Day’. “As this day will not come until the next year, we thought, in all good faith, that it is appropriate to take people of Pakistan on board on our preparedness and ‘readiness to launch’ the commercial services soon and to give them the gift of AMA scheme, but this gift will not be given until PTA allows us to give them, for which they have been waiting for since many years.

“In the advertisement, we have not in any manner mentioned that we have launched commercial services (in Pakistan or in AJK & GB or Pakistan) without PTA’s commencement certificate. We have intentionally avoided the words ‘launch’ and ‘commencement of operations’ and only talked about readiness and being commercially operational,” the company maintained.

‘AN ATTEMPT TO MALIGN THE REGULATOR’

Meanwhile, as per the PTA clarification issued on Tuesday, “PTA and State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) issued two Third Party Service Provider (TPSP) licences in 2018 to Virtual Remittance Gateway (Pvt) Ltd and Digital Bridge (Pvt) Ltd (DBL) aimed at bringing the unbanked population into formal banking services. However, it has been noted that VRG, while violating the legal framework and licence conditions, has started an ill-intended campaign in a section of media, to malign the regulator and influence regulatory decisions.

“To expedite the availability of AMA scheme for the general public, PTA provided all facilitation to TPSP licensees, through series of meetings and discussion spanned over several months in order to resolve the technical and financial issues between all stakeholders. But VRG, instead of recognising the efforts of PTA, tried to malign the regulator by publishing twisted facts.”

In fact, it continued, VRG tried to put the burden of its own failures on the part of regulator. VRG has alleged in the media that PTA has delayed issuance of commencement certificate for commercial operations since Jan 2020, whereas SBP issued authorization to VRG for commercial launch on 9th April 2020.

As a consequence of SBP authorization and completing the commercial agreement with the mobile operator, VRG applied to PTA for commencement certificate on 4th August 2020.

PTA clarified that issuance of commencement certificate requires submission of commercial agreements by a TPSP licencee with all cellular mobile operators. Since completion of pilot launch and inspection of VRG system in Jan 2020, PTA has repeatedly been urging VRG to expedite and submit commercial agreements for issuance of commencement certificate.

“However, VRG was unable to submit any commercial agreement for 6 months until 4th August 2020, and that too with only one operator i.e. Jazz. Even the agreement with Jazz is conditional on VRG’s agreements with other operators.

“Under VRG’s licence conditions, a 30-day prior notice is required by VRG for commencement. Hence, there is no delay on part of PTA in issuance of commencement certificate and the same will be issued after fulfilment of Quality of Service conditions and evaluation of the commercial agreement,” the statement read.

VRG also reported that it had signed an agreement with SCO, which has the mandate to operate cell phone services in AJ&K and GB. “VRG has even not been awarded any TPSP licence for AJ&K and GB, a requirement to operate in AJ&K and GB. Therefore, VRG’s commercial agreement with SCO is misleading to the general public. TPSP licensee is also required to submit its agreements to the regulator, however, no agreement with SCO has been submitted yet by VRG.”

Furthermore, VRG has blatantly alleged a fair regulator to favour other TPSP licensee (DBL) to put pressure on the regulator well before the 30 days notice for processing of commencement certificate, which ends on 4th September 2020. This clearly indicates licencee’s intention of covering any shortfalls in commercial agreements and technical design through pressure tactics.

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