Dr Ismail Shah did his PhD from the University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA in 1997. Earlier he did Master from the same university and before that he got engineering degree from the UET Peshawar.

Q: Kindly give a brief account of your academic and professional career.
A: I did my PhD from the University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA in 1997. Earlier I did my Master from the same university and before that I got my engineering degree from the UET Peshawar. I started my professional life by joining the Telecommunication Division of Siemens Engineering Company in its office in Islamabad in 1989. I remained there for two years before moving abroad on a scholarship from the Ministry of Science and Technology.

I have worked in the University of Pittsburgh, the GIK Institute, Communication Enabling Technologies, Center for Advanced Research in Engineering, Iqra University Islamabad, the Central Asian Cellular Forum and through them as a consultant with Qualcomm beside spending some time in the Ministry of IT as Member Telecommunication. I joined PTA on 30th September 2013 and with the strong collaboration of MoIT and outstanding team at PTA we have been able to auction spectrum for 3G and 4G technologies.

Q: At a time when people-to-people contact was through letters, you made a successful attempt to make these connections through cable and wireless technology. Was it already in your mind?

A: In fact I was very much interested in telecommunication and most of my career I have focused on telecommunication and specially wireless communication. I like the field and would like to contribute in this area for the development of our country.

Q: You are the youngest Chairman of PTA ever since the inception of the telecom authority in Pakistan. Have you ever faced any problem in handling the official affairs within the PTA or the ministry?

A: No. Rather most people feel very positive about it they see that they are interacting with a person who has some vision about the telecom sector. In fact age is not the criteria of knowledge, dedication and vision. I want to bring a positive change in PTA because I feel bigger decisions can be done while sitting in this position. I try my utmost to take all my colleagues along and they feel part of the decision making process. We concentrate on work and are avoiding conflicts. We have very good understanding with all the relevant government agencies specially MoIT.

Q: When you had assumed this charge, PTA had entered a new stage after transformation. What kind of tasks were before you and what have been achieved?

A: It has always been my endeavor to take forward with a positive approach. But you know discouraging elements are always there, but we try to move on. I am not spending my energies on what happened in the past. I have the vision to go forward and I have made it clear to my colleagues. At the time of my joining the PTA, the main task, directed by the Supreme Court, was the 3G issue. Another issue was the ongoing grey telephony in the country besides ensuring SIMs sale affairs especially in the wake of terror incidents in the country. There were also so many internal as well as the telecom industrys issues that needed to be resolved mainly due to lack of authority. As you know we have made progress in all areas and have been able to auction spectrum not only for 3G but for 4G also.

Q: How Pakistan can handle the illegal SIMs issue?

A: If we look at this, the SIMs in itself are not the issue. For instance, if you land at the Bangkok airport and go outside without submitting your passport, you can have a SIM without any verification; some countries need photocopy of your passport. Actually it depends on the local security situation. The moment we go for more advance technology, we would also need SIMs for other devices other than a mobile phone for internal data communications. Due to our peculiar security situation PTA, the security agencies, MoI and Ministry of IT have devised a special procedure to issue SIMs. This procedure is based on the biometric verification. Pakistan is the only state of the world where this system has been installed.

Presently, about 137 million active SIMs are there. However, all the new SIMs would be issued through the biometric verification process. Furthermore, this issue could be resolved once the law and order situation is improved and I am hopeful about it. Still we will work in collaboration with law enforcement agencies on this problem. We want to have a mechanism in place after due consultations with all the stakeholders.

Q: Can we stop grey trafficking in Pakistan?

A: We can reduce it but cannot eliminate it completely unless we stop charging the premium on the international terminating voice minutes. In fact, grey trafficking gets encouraged in a state where incoming charges are high. Even in Saudi Arabia where laws are very strict, grey trafficking exists. With the introduction of more technology there are more chances of grey telephony, so I cant say we can completely control this illegal communication, but serious attempts are being made to minimize it. PTA has taken number of steps to effectively control grey telephony and raids are conducted to apprehend people involved in it.

A: As far as the communication security is concerned it is not the domain of PTA, but I could say that amid the latest technology once you use a phone or go on Internet for data communication you are always at risk. There are more positive usages of the technology than negative. As you know police have netted a number of rackets of criminals in this way. A phone users all calls data, messages and other communication is available with private companies and we have tried to ensure its security. As far as the security of files of government departments is concerned there are still lapses. We need our own servers for data security. Recently, the Ministry of IT has taken a number of initiatives in this regard, especially it is going to establish a data centre for the security of government all communications.

Q: The issue of unwanted websites is very critical. You are also active to block such websites, but the very next day a lot of other sites are launched. How can PTA be in a position to completely control this situation?

A: This is a very difficult task and even if somehow one is able to control it, that could be to the extent of Pakistan and the material would still be accessible in other countries. In fact it needs a multi- pronged approach as security network should be implemented at many levels, which is still a difficult task. As far as the objectionable websites are concerned, we can block them partially, but on internet one cannot be 100% certain.

Q: YouTube has become a critical issue in Pakistan. Most of the activities, especially education (Virtual University lectures), are linked with the site. Most of the people argue that it should be unblocked. What would you say?

A: The matter is in the Supreme Court. Once there is a decision the inter-ministerial committee will take up this issue.

Q: What kind of change do you see after the introduction of 3G-4G spectrum in the country?

A: This is just a first step towards broadband and this is a main step also for high speed data especially on your mobile phone. But again it depends on how you use this technology. We have both the options of its usage – good and bad. But the most important point is that we should create an environment where the positive usage of this technology is encouraged. Generally speaking 3G/4G or next generation technology has fetched a very reasonable license fee, and of course, it will bring social development in terms of new systems installation and new job opportunities. So there would be a great impact of the 3G/4G technology installation in the country.

Q: There has been a practice that regulatory codes are developed only after negative impacts of some projects start emerging. Do you think that there should be some regulatory laws before the launch of the 3G?

A: The rules we have right now regarding the 3G/4G are mentioned in the license. However, other challenges that could come up with the passage of time, we would deal with them accordingly.

Q: Technology Times is in the process of launching a web TV with the name of Tech TV which is the first web TV of the Muslim world. What would you say about this initiative?

A: It is a positive step towards promoting the science and technology. I have also seen your weekly newspaper Technology Times with the same focus. It is very encouraging that this significant initiative has been taken from Pakistan for the first time. Just try to make this publication more positive and I assure you of PTAs all possible support in this regard.

By Web Team

Technology Times Web team handles all matters relevant to website posting and management.