ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has unveiled the names of the four cellular service providers who will bid for 3G and 4G licences on April 23.
According to an announcement on Thursday, China Mobile (Zong), Mobilink, Ufone and Telenor Pakistan had submitted sealed bids to PTA by the stipulated deadline on Monday. Warid Telecom, the fifth major player, chose to stay away from the bidding process.
Thursday’s announcement was made in accordance with the timelines stipulated in the information memorandum for the spectrum auction of next generation mobile services in Pakistan.
The base price for a 3G licence and 4G licence is $295 million and $210 million, respectively. Companies can bid for one 10MHz bandwidth or the entire spectrum consisting of three 10MHz bandwidths (a total of 30MHz).
Minister of State for Information Technology Anusha Rehman explained why two foreign companies — Turkcell and Saudi Telecom — that initially appeared interested in obtaining 3G and 4G licences, chose not to enter the bidding process. “They wanted exclusive rights to the next generation technology for at least a year before local operators got it. However, in the interests of fairness to all operators, the government did not accept their terms,” she said.
The introduction of 3G and 4G in the telecom sector is expected to revolutionise the way subscribers stay connected. The only fly in the ointment, according to the Internet Service Providers Association of Pakistan (ISPAK), is that smartphone usage in the country is still less than 5 per cent. Nonetheless, says Wahaj-us-Siraj of ISPAK, the introduction of 3G/4G technology will catalyse the development of new and advanced applications for those who rely heavily on mobile phones and smartphones during the course of their daily routine.
“Improved voice quality is the first thing subscribers will notice. The current 2G or second generation technology offers a limited spectrum. There are far too many subscribers and networks are congested. This is why voice quality is poor and calls are often disconnected,” he said.
4G provides even faster speeds and ultra-broadband services, putting data-intensive services such as online gaming, high definition mobile TV and video conferencing within the reach of the average consumer.
But Siraj cautions that it could be a while before 4G services become widely available. “4G-compatible handsets are still quite expensive and out of reach for most subscribers,” he said, adding that he expected 4G to take off about two years down the line.
Head of public relations, Mobilink, Omar Manzur, told Dawn that all cellular service providers looked to the regulators to create a level-playing field to ensure healthy competition. “It will be interesting to see who bids for a 4G licence,” he said.
Telenor Corporate Communications Director Atifa Asghar said her organisation was also looking forward to a fair and transparent auction.
A spokesperson for Ufone said the company was satisfied with the process so far. “It’s about time the people of Pakistan get to experience the latest that mobile technology has to offer,” he said.
“It’s high time that the under-connected masses experience better technology. Both the public and private sectors should be working to come up with useful services, content and applications to fully utilise the potential of high-speed internet connectivity,” PTA Member Mudassir Hussain told Dawn.