ISLAMABAD - The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has so far blocked around 290,000 telephone connections for being involved in grey traffic.

Over 50,000 connections were blocked after October 2012 as part of non-system activities presently being carried out by the authority.

An official source Tuesday told APP that the PTA had a technical system to monitor international telephone traffic. The system became operational in May 2008 and was expanded in early 2009.

He said that the aim of system, installed with the funding of Long Distance International (LDI) operators, was to monitor all international voice traffic being terminated into Pakistan for identification of illegal channels employed by grey operators. He said that the system monitored IP and SS7 traffic on submarine cables to identify illegal calls brought in the country by grey operators and to record CDRs of LDI licensees for revenue assurance.

The system also monitors submarine cables SMW3, SMW4 and IMEWE managed by PTCL at PTCL Marston Road, Pak Capital, Hawks Bay and Satellite Town exchanges and cable TW1 managed by Transworld at TWA Hawks Bay landing station, he added.

The system has been used to carry out actions against grey telephony which also include raids. The official said a total of 66 joint raids with the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) had been carried out so far across the country during last four years.

Around 57 persons, including six foreigners, were apprehended during the raids, besides confiscation of 442 illegal gateway equipment.

He said in some cases the PTA also identified involvement of its own licensees in grey telephony and recovered Rs 1316.9 million, including Rs 702.5 million fine and Rs 614.4 as recovery.

The other step taken was reduction in the APC to 1.25 cents, which eliminated the grey operators’ margin. The said reduction greatly reduced the volume of grey traffic and legal LDI traffic increased from 700 million to over 2000 million per month.

The official said monitoring system had virtually become ineffective and was not a viable deterrent for grey traffic as its maintenance was expired in early 2012. Its major components have gone down with only 3 per cent CDRs being produced for the total international traffic coming into the country.

He said as per a government directive, the monitoring system needed to be upgraded within 90 days by the LDI consortium for curbing the grey traffic.

Meanwhile, the International Clearing House (ICH) was challenged in the Lahore High Court, which stayed the ICH related activities for the time being. However, the Supreme Court of Pakistan nullified the LHC’s interim decision.

The Supreme Court’s Lahore registry has referred the ICH case to the Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) and ordered to resolve the matter in 15 days.

The monitoring system as part of ICH, will be deployed by LDI operators’ consortium as and when the CCP decides the case.

It is mentioned here that the measures to combat grey telephony by Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) helped save Rs. 763 million for national exchequer.

The termination/origination of international calls by bypassing legal arrangements to avoid applicable taxes and regulatory fees is termed as grey traffic, which is causing losses worth millions of dollars to the national kitty.