PTA’s Corporate VPN Ban: How It Could Immobilize Small IT Businesses & Startups?

A Virtual Private Network or VPN gives you online privacy & anonymity by creating a private network from a public internet connection.

A number of businesses have now been digitalized and operated online under a specific VPN to keep things of certain businesses in the privacy zone away from the public approach.

As per the latest updates, Pakistan Telecom Authority’s (PTA) came up with a policy of registration of a VPN by June 30; however, it may create problems for individuals, freelancers, and small non-member companies who may not make it for Pakistan Software Houses Association (P@Sha) or Pakistan Software Export Board (PSEB) membership.

How VPN Ban Can Be Problematic?

The problems emerging from the fact that small IT businesses and startups which are dependent on VPN usage to serve their clientele could face disruptions and severe hardship following the PTA’s decision to ban its usage.

Similarly, it would not be only causing trouble for all such businesses but also can squeeze the revenue generation ultimately making them go wrecked.

Considering the functionary government touting the promotion of Pakistan’s tech sector and using it to boost IT exports, this decision by PTA to ban corporate VPN’s will intensify issues specifically for all those small startups that have been working on possible strategies to generate revenue with very less of the investment including the already functioning IT businesses and it all depends on its usage.

On the other hand, PTA’s excuse to act and take control to stop illegal telephony traffic which causes losses to their licensees and the national treasure in terms of revenues and taxes is creditable.

However, taking control of the corporations involved in causing losses to the national treasure by using VPNs will hurt in legitimating businesses.

Moreover, the complex process to go into the registration via ISPs and then the slow approval process could cause massive losses to such entities and put their very practicality at risk.

Opinion Regarding PTA’s New Decision!

Following this major announcement by PTA for banning VPNs, the experts stepped forward with their opinions as follows:

Usman Asif – CEO Eduleaf

According to Usman Asif, founder, and CEO of Eduleaf, “This legislation is not only going to be a problem for freelancers and small businesses, but it is also going to be very troubling for larger businesses too, especially during the current circumstances.

As I understand it, we can either whitelist the clients’ static IP or our own. As our client list is constantly changing, and rapid onboarding is a necessity, we do not have the time to cut through the red tape to whitelist the IP for each new client.

As for whitelisting our own office IP, that would have been possible before, but in this pandemic, all of our employees are working from home, and have been since before the mandatory lockdown by the government.”

He further added, “We understand that the purpose of this is to increase tax revenue to the government by blocking illegal non-taxpaying telephony services. My worry is that IT services export generates a lot more revenue for the government than that.

If the government inadvertently strangles our businesses, making it impossible for us to continue to do business, or be competitive in the current fast-paced industry, that is not to the best interest of Pakistan or its people.”

VPN - A Virtual Private Network or VPN gives you online privacy & anonymity by creating a private network from a public internet connection. A number of businesses have now been digitalized and operated online under a specific VPN to keep things of certain business in privacy zone away from public approach. As per the latest updates, Pakistan Telecom Authority’s (PTA) came up with a policy of registration of a VPN by June 30; however, it may create problems for individuals, freelancers and small non-member companies who may not make it for Pakistan Software Houses Association (P@Sha) or Pakistan Software Export Board (PSEB) membership. How VPN Ban Can Be Problematic? The problems emerging from the fact that small IT businesses and startups which are dependent on VPN usage to serve their clientele could face disruptions and severe hardship following the PTA’s decision to ban its usage. Similarly, it would not be only causing trouble for all such businesses but also can squeeze the revenue generation ultimately making them go wrecked. Considering the functionary government touting the promotion of Pakistan’s tech sector and using it to boost IT exports, this decision by PTA to ban corporate VPN’s will intensify issues specifically for all those small startups that have been working on possible strategies to generate revenue with very less of the investment including the already functioning IT businesses and it all depends on its usage. On the other hand, PTA’s excuse to act and take control to stop illegal telephony traffic which causes losses to their licensees and the national treasure in terms of revenues and taxes is creditable. However, taking control of the corporations involved in causing losses to the national treasure by using VPNs will hurt in legitimating businesses. Moreover, the complex process to go into the registeration via ISPs and then the slow approval process could cause massive losses to such entities and put their very practicality at risk. Opinion Regarding PTA’s New Decision! Following this major announcement by PTA for banning VPNs, the experts stepped forward with their opinions as follows: Usman Asif – CEO Eduleaf According to Usman Asif, founder and CEO of Eduleaf, “This legislation is not only going to be a problem for freelancers and small businesses, but it is also going to be very troubling for larger businesses too, especially during the current circumstances. As I understand it, we can either whitelist the clients’ static IP or our own. As our client list is constantly changing, and rapid onboarding is a necessity, we do not have the time to cut through the red tape to whitelist the IP for each new client. As for whitelisting our own office IP, that would have been possible before, but in this pandemic, all of our employees are working from home, and have been since before the mandatory lockdown by the government.” He further added, “We understand that the purpose of this is to increase tax revenue to the government by blocking illegal non-taxpaying telephony services. My worry is that IT services export generates a lot more revenue for the government than that. If the government inadvertently strangles our businesses, making it impossible for us to continue to do business, or be competitive in the current fast-paced industry, that is not to the best interest of Pakistan or its people.” Rashid Sultan – Lead Developer/Easy Server at Cyviz AS, Norway During a comprehensive conversation, Rashid Sultan who works as Lead Developer/Easy Server at Cyviz AS, Norway said that this decision will be making those people suffer who are working remotely during holidays and for also for the companies that are not registered in Pakistan plus for those whose families residing here and they divide between working here and abroad. He also highlighted that both these categories have no way of registering the VPN with the PTA and if done should be done against your landline number or CNIC, which would mean in case of any violation, they are held accountable. Moreover, Rashid Sultan pointed that in case of landline registration, co-working spaces will be going to suffer as well because they will host multiple companies over the same internet connection. Likewise, mobile operators will also face a similar issue over using VPN. “Sometimes we hire consultants from Pakistan, based on workload. For them to work, we need to be able to give them access to our network, using a VPN will become a problem due to PTA’s registration requirement.” he bewailed. Irfan Ahmed – Chief Technology Officer Mezino Technologies Moving ahead over the compilation of opinions in terms of PTA’s decision to initiate corporate VPN registration, Irfan Ahmed, Chief technology officer Mezino Technologies expressed, “You need a call center license, Pakistan Software Houses Association (P@Sha) or Pakistan Software Export Board (PSEB) membership to register. Individuals, freelancers and small non-member companies cannot register.” Elucidating the process of how this would be working, he said, “For a client to server VPN, you need one of them to have a static IP address. Based on your use case, you can either get your client or server IP addresses whitelisted. There is no way to whitelist when both server and client have dynamic IPs.” He further added, “Some of the popular domestic ISPs are out of static IP pool and are no longer providing it. It is required in cases when you need to access client network via VPN on a short notice and VPN server address is not already registered.” Irfan Ahmed went on to say that, “You initiate the registration request via your internet service provider (ISP). Most of the ISPs aren’t aware of the process and PTA is working on educating them.” He also mentioned that most of the popular VPN IP addresses and ports are already being regulated, blocked and the deadline for VPN registration is June 30, 2020. Contrary to all these concerns, PTA stated that the legislation has existed since 2010 and it is only being enforced now. Irfan Ahmed said, “In this time of the pandemic when countries and regulators are easing down the policies to encourage work from home (WFH) and support their economy, PTA has decided to make it difficult for thousands of WFH users, small web/app shops, call centre agents, freelancers to continue doing their jobs.” Putting forward the example of regulating body like State Bank of Pakistan, he stated that in this tough financial situation following the pandemic, even the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) has temporarily lifted IBFT charges for banking transactions to support economy. He posited that PTA may have its reasons for blocking VPNs but lack justification on solid grounds. “They are tiny revenue-generating individuals, but when combined they bring a huge amount of revenue for Pakistan. They do not have a representative body, P@SHA and PSEB do not own them and PTA has no clear policy in place for them, making their position ambiguous,” he concluded.
Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA)

Rashid Sultan – Lead Developer/Easy Server at Cyviz AS, Norway

During a comprehensive conversation, Rashid Sultan who works as Lead Developer/Easy Server at Cyviz AS, Norway said that this decision will be making those people suffer who are working remotely during holidays and for also for the companies that are not registered in Pakistan plus for those whose families residing here and they divide between working here and abroad.

He also highlighted that both these categories have no way of registering the VPN with the PTA and if done should be done against your landline number or CNIC, which would mean in case of any violation, they are held accountable.

Moreover, Rashid Sultan pointed out that in the case of landline registration, co-working spaces will be going to suffer as well because they will host multiple companies over the same internet connection. Likewise, mobile operators will also face a similar issue over using VPN.

“Sometimes we hire consultants from Pakistan, based on workload. For them to work, we need to be able to give them access to our network, using a VPN will become a problem due to PTA’s registration requirement.” he bewailed.

Irfan Ahmed – Chief Technology Officer Mezino Technologies

Moving ahead over the compilation of opinions in terms of PTA’s decision to initiate corporate VPN registration, Irfan Ahmed, Chief technology officer Mezino Technologies expressed, “You need a call center license, Pakistan Software Houses Association (P@Sha) or Pakistan Software Export Board (PSEB) membership to register. Individuals, freelancers, and small non-member companies cannot register.”

Elucidating the process of how this would be working, he said, “For a client to server VPN, you need one of them to have a static IP address. Based on your use case, you can either get your client or server IP addresses whitelisted. There is no way to whitelist when both server and client have dynamic IPs.”

He further added, “Some of the popular domestic ISPs are out of static IP pool and are no longer providing it. It is required in cases when you need to access client network via VPN on short notice and the VPN server address is not already registered.”

Irfan Ahmed went on to say, “You initiate the registration request via your internet service provider (ISP). Most of the ISPs aren’t aware of the process and PTA is working on educating them.”

He also mentioned that most of the popular VPN IP addresses and ports are already being regulated, blocked and the deadline for VPN registration is June 30, 2020.

Contrary to all these concerns, PTA stated that the legislation has existed since 2010 and it is only being enforced now.

Irfan Ahmed said, “In this time of the pandemic when countries and regulators are easing down the policies to encourage work from home (WFH) and support their economy, PTA has decided to make it difficult for thousands of WFH users, small web/app shops, call center agents, freelancers to continue doing their jobs.”

Putting forward the example of regulating body like State Bank of Pakistan, he stated that in this tough financial situation following the pandemic, even the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) has temporarily lifted IBFT charges for banking transactions to support the economy.

He posited that PTA may have its reasons for blocking VPNs but lack justification on solid grounds. “They are tiny revenue-generating individuals, but when combined they bring a huge amount of revenue for Pakistan. They do not have a representative body, P@SHA and PSEB do not own them and PTA has no clear policy in place for them, making their position ambiguous,” he concluded.