Pakistan Railways Massively Increases Charges for Fiber Broadband Track Crossing

Pakistan Railways has implemented a substantial increase in the Right of Way (ROW) charges for a single-track crossing, setting the new rate at Rs. 3.8 million for a five-year period.

This development coincides with Caretaker Federal IT Minister Dr. Umar Saif’s recent announcement of long-awaited telecom policy reforms and a reduction in ROW charges for fiber broadband.

 Telecom operators engaged in installing fiber broadband infrastructure often need to cross railway tracks, historically incurring a fee of Rs. 100,000 per track crossing for a 10-year span.

In 2007, recognizing the growing prevalence of fiber broadband, Pakistan Railways raised the charges to Rs. 2.7 million for a 5-year duration.

 However, in 2022, the PTI-led government reduced crossing charges to Rs. 600,000 per crossing for a lifetime, aligning with the demand of telecom operators and aiming to promote fiber broadband.

Regrettably, the PDM government reversed this policy in May 2023. On December 12, 2023, Pakistan Railways announced a significant surge in track crossing charges to Rs. 3.8 million for five years for telecom operators. 

In contrast, cable TV operators continue to pay a nominal fee of Rs. 100 per year. 

This decision is justified by the department on the belief that telecom operators generate higher revenue and, therefore, can afford to contribute significantly more compared to cable TV operators.

Wahaj Siraj, Vice Chairman of the Telecom Operators Association of Pakistan, criticized the move, stating that the railways are illegitimately extracting substantial fees from telecom operators, hindering investments in broadband and impeding the country’s progress in the digital age.

 He emphasized that charging an exorbitant fee for the passage of fiber through state-owned land is unwarranted and unprecedented.

This decision is met with serious concern within the telecom industry, particularly considering ongoing efforts by the Special Facilitation Investment Council (SIFC), led by the Prime Minister of Pakistan with the Chief of Army Staff as a key member, to implement reforms supporting the IT and telecom sector.

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