PTA Clarifies Ban on Chat Rooms: SMS and call bundles remain intact

ISLAMABAD: A couple of days back, Pakistan’s telecom regulator directed all service providers to discontinue voice and text chat packages on moral grounds.

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) intervention followed in response to the complaints from lawmakers and hardline groups about mobile phone packages that allow users to make cheap calls late at night. As the ban was not clear, industry regulators demanded a vivid explanation about the PTI’s proposition.

Consequently, letter from Khurram Mehran, Director Public Relations PTA reportedly read that the directives were a simply a mere continuation to an earlier letter dated November 14, 2012. Then the letter had asked telecom companies to stop offering ‘chat room’ services, where users could log on anonymously and converse with other people logged into the same room. Reportedly, PTA further claimed the letter to be a response to the complaints about these services from the Supreme Court, standing committees of Parliament as well as lawmakers, who were worried about the adverse influences these would have on social norms and values. However, in its recent clarification letter, PTA states that it has not banned SMS and voice ‘bundle’ packages but has only directed the ‘chat rooms’ to be abolished. Further, “chat packages” mentioned in the letter include voice and SMS “chat rooms” offered by mobile phone operators where customers can chat anonymously with other subscribers, but the usual SMS and voice bundles will remain the same.