ISLAMABAD: The government is set to launch 4G broadband services in Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir and an announcement to this effect is expected to be made on March 23.
Sources in the ministry of information technology said the government had decided to open up “digital roads” in GB and AJK and the auction proceeds for new spectrum would be finalised by the middle of May.
“The auction of 4G licences will be held before June 30 and it will not only bring high-speed internet to GB and AJK but also the benefits of higher revenues for their governments,” the sources said.
They confirmed that recently Prime Minister Imran Khan was given a briefing by the IT ministry and the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) that was also attended by GB Chief Minister Khalid Khurshid and senior officials of the AJK government and the GB secretariat.
Licences will be auctioned before June 30
“The meeting was informed that traditional restrictions related to the security have been relaxed and high-speed internet services will be provided to almost all areas of GB and AJK, expectedly before the end of this year,” the sources added.
The meeting was informed by the PTA that the UK-based consulting firm Frontier Economics Ltd was working on the parameters and mode of the spectrum auction of 1,800 MHz and 2,100 MHz bands across the country.
“The same firm has been tasked to determine the base price, policy and other requirements related to auction of 4G licences in GB and AJK,” the sources said.
Meanwhile, a senior PTA official confirmed that the basic roadmap for the two auctions will be finalised by the middle of May.
“There will be one auction for new spectrum for the whole country, and another for GB and AJK,” he said.
The auction of licence for AJK and GB will be at much lower price compared to the spectrum auction for the whole of Pakistan as significantly higher amount of investment was required in those areas, the official added.
“Besides, the proceeds from auction of spectrum will be deposited in the National Consolidated Fund, whereas there is a different mechanism to give the share of proceeds to GB and Azad Jammu and Kashmir,” he said.
Apart from the share in the auction proceeds, the revenues of AJK and GB too will increase through 19.5 per cent general sales tax (GST) on services levied on both telephony and the internet usage.
Currently, only Telenor is providing a limited range of 4G internet service in Gilgit city and that too out of its additional capacity.
The bulk of telephony and internet services in Gilgit-Baltistan and AJK are being handled by the state-run Special Communications Organisation, and the upcoming licence auctions will bring in fresh competition in telephony and digitisation.
Published in Dawn, March 21st, 2021