ISLAMABAD: Finance Minister on Thursday said the sale of maximum possible Next Generation Mobile Services (NGMS) spectrum will contribute towards overall economic growth through digitalisation and improve the quality of broadband services in Pakistan.
Chairing a meeting of the the Advisory Committee, the minister asked the consultants to follow a proactive approach and meet the given deadlines for the release of NGMS spectrum.
Meanwhile, sources in the official circle stated that the government expects to raise around $1 billion from the spectrum auction at a time there is a strong reaction from the telecom companies against the auction.
The committee was briefed by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) Chairman Major Gen (retired) Aamir Azeem over the latest developments in the sale of available spectrum of next generation mobile services.
Auction may yield $1bn, improve broadband services
The committee was informed that the PTA has hired a UK-based firm, Frontier Economics Ltd, as consultant for spectrum auction of 1800 MHz and 2100 MHz bands.
The PTA called bids for an international consultant for spectrum auction on the directions of the ministry of information technology, and the advertisement for hiring of a consultant or a consultancy firm was published in national and international newspapers on Sept 30, 2020 by the PTA. In response to its advertisement, 12 bids were received by the deadline of Nov 17, 2020.
The committee was informed that the Spectrum Auction Pakistan 2020-21 was focused on regulatory consistency for the investors and increase in the mobile broadband proliferation that will also have an impact on the overall economic growth of Pakistan.
The key responsibility of the consultant would be to devise a strategy for available spectrum auction in Pakistan in 1800 and 2100 MHz in the light of international best practices suited for the local telecom market.
The committee was informed that after following the due procedures the sale of available spectrum is likely to be completed within the current financial year.
“There are two school of thoughts over the subject. The finance ministry wants an open auction to net higher revenues and NAB, FIA, etc also want an open auction to ensure transparency,” added the sources.
“The other point of view — mainly of the operators — is that awarding spectrum at low prices would help the companies invest more into service and outreach in unserved areas. The mobile companies say that the government should provide infrastructure that is spectrum and they will increase service to far-flung and unreached areas like Gilgit-Baltistan and former Fata and other parts of the country at affordable rates,” the official added.
The next meeting of the advisory committee is expected to take place in March.
The meeting was attended by Science and Technology Minister Fawad Chaudhry, IT Minister Syed Aminul Haque, Commerce Adviser Abdul Razak Dawood, Secretary Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication, Executive Director Frequency Allocation Board and other senior officials participated in the meeting.
Currently Pakistan has some 85 million 3G/4G subscribers and 87 million broadband subscribers but the internet penetration is less than 41 per cent across the country.
Published in Dawn, January 15th, 2021