The news: Pakistan’s government is planning to sell an unused telecom spectrum in an auction. The selling process will begin this week. The government hopes that auctioning the spectrum will raise around $1 billion which can be utilized to enhance the network capacity in the country.
Spectrum: The spectrum to be auctioned lies between the range of the 1800 MHz and 2100 MHz. These bands are usually used by 4G LTE (long-term evolution) network operators to provide faster video streaming and Internet download speeds to their users. The government has planned to begin the proceedings of auctioning the spectrum and engage an international consulting firm that will design the entire auction process.
Auction: The foreign company will also provide consultation and advice regarding the base prices and other details. A sale date has not been set by the government until now but the process to hire a consultant for ‘Spectrum Auction 2020-21’ has been initiated. Pakistan’s economy has been greatly affected by the worldwide pandemic, which has left many in turmoil. The tax collection process has also taken a hit after the covid-19 pandemic. In these circumstances, the country is eager to generate funds and restore the national treasuries.
5G launch: Currently, Pakistan has over 85 million 3G/4G subscribers across the country. The government has been making efforts to bring 5G technology home, and provide internet in remote areas as well. The spectrum auction 2020-21 is considered a forerunner for the launch of 5G services in Pakistan. The major stakeholders in the telecom market of Pakistan are Jazz, backed by Netherlands-based Veon Ltd; Telenor Pakistan, backed by Norway’s state-controlled Telenor; Zong, owned by China Mobile and Ufone, which is controlled by state-owned Pakistan Telecommunication Company Ltd.
Advisory body: Last month, the Economic Coordination Council (ECC) formed an advisory body to undertake the auction of the spectrum with the goal of improving broadband services, providing higher internet speeds to users, and increasing online penetration. The advisory committee consists of advisers on finance and commerce, ministers for telecommunication, industries and production, planning, development as well as special initiatives. The committee’s main function included gauging the market assessment reports and considering recommendations made by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) for the release of the maximum spectrum. They were also tasked with finalizing the policy directives and overseeing the auctioning process of unused spectrum.