Starlink and Web1 May Soon Offer Satellite Internet in Pakistan: IT Minister

Pakistan’s caretaker Federal Minister for IT and Telecommunication, Dr Umar Saif, has expressed his optimism that satellite internet companies like Starlink and Web1 may soon enter Pakistan and offer high-speed and low-cost internet access across the country.

Starlink, a project by SpaceX, and Web1, a project by OneWeb, are two of the leading satellite internet providers in the world, aiming to create a constellation of thousands of low Earth orbit satellites that can beam down internet signals to any location on the planet.

Dr Saif said that the approval of the National Space Policy, which allows private companies to use low-orbit satellites in Pakistan, has opened the door for such companies to operate in the country. He said that the companies would only need a no-objection certificate from the defence ministry to launch their satellite communication services in Pakistan.

He added that the companies would also have to contribute 6% to research and development (R&D) in the country, as per the policy. He said that the satellite internet services could benefit the remote and underserved areas of Pakistan, where terrestrial broadband and mobile internet are either unavailable or unreliable.

He said that the satellite internet services could also reduce the operational costs of telecom operators, especially in areas where mobile towers are inactive due to security or power issues. He said that the satellite internet services could provide a backup option for the telecom operators in case of any disruption in the terrestrial networks.

Dr Saif also revealed that the IT ministry has reached an agreement with PayPal, the world’s largest online payment platform, to channel remittances from freelancers through a third party. He said that this would facilitate the freelancers in Pakistan, who face difficulties in receiving payments from international clients.

He said that the IT ministry has also laid the groundwork for launching 5G services in Pakistan, which are expected to be completed in the next financial year. He said that 300 MHz spectrum has been reserved for the 5G auction, and a consultant will be hired to determine the market potential and the pricing mechanism for the auction.

He said that the IT ministry has also taken several initiatives to boost the IT and telecom sector exports, which are currently $2.6 billion, but in reality, they reach around $5 billion. He said that a significant portion of the export revenue is parked outside the country to cover the expenses of international employees and platforms like Google, Amazon, LinkedIn, etc.

He said that the IT ministry has collaborated with the SIFC and State Bank of Pakistan to allow IT companies to retain 50% of their export revenue in dollars in an account in Pakistan, enabling them to cover their international expenses without restrictions. He said that this has resulted in a 13% increase in export revenue in one month.

He said that the IT ministry has also planned to launch several digital initiatives next week, including offering smartphones to customers on easy installments, and conducting standardized quality tests for IT graduates to position Pakistan as a ‘TechDestination’.

He said that the caretaker government has fulfilled its responsibilities to the best of its abilities and will step down after the upcoming general elections. He said that the incoming government will need to continue the efforts to achieve a digital Pakistan.

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