Govt gets $279m in spectrum auction

Published September 11, 2021
Amid withdrawal of bids by three main players in the telecom sector, Ufone has obtained 9MHz spectrum in 1800-megahertz band for $279 million. — Reuters/File
Amid withdrawal of bids by three main players in the telecom sector, Ufone has obtained 9MHz spectrum in 1800-megahertz band for $279 million. — Reuters/File

ISLAMABAD: Amid withdrawal of bids by three main players in the telecom sector, Ufone has obtained 9MHz spectrum in 1800-megahertz band for $279 million, allowing the company to improve its quality of service as well as expand penetration in different underserved areas.

The Pakistan Telecommu­nication Authority (PTA) on Friday declared Ufone as the sole winner in the auction of additional spectrum 2021.

Briefing the media on the results of the auction, PTA Chairman retired Maj Gen Amir Azeem Bajwa said Ufone would have to deposit 50 per cent (Rs23.44 billion) of the bid amount in the government treasury within 15 days.

The company had already paid 20pc (Rs9.38bn) of the amount on Thursday and will pay the remaining 50pc in five equal annual installments. Total spectrum won by Ufone is 9MHz in 1800MHz band, which is 70.3pc of the total offered spectrum in this band during the auction. With this addition, the spectrum holdings of Ufone will increase from 6MHz to 15MHz in 1800MHz band.

Mr Bajwa said the auction could not be termed a failure or a flop show because it was an open and free market, adding that all the players were invited to participate in the auction and only those who needed spectrum bought it.

Responding criticism of the auction process, he said: “It is clear that Jazz has a significant huge base and the company has even announced that they do not require fresh spectrum for the time being; similar statement has been issued by Telenor. Zong has some spectrum under litigation and they must be hoping to have it sooner or later.”

The PTA chairman said it was a marketing decision by these companies and the initial demand of the industry in 1800MHz band was 6.4MHz, whereas 9MHz spectrum was sold and that too was a marketing decision by Ufone. He said mobile companies used to say that the government was hoarding spectrum by not offering it, but now they had stayed away from it.

Mr Bajwa said the base price of spectrum was not high; it was cheapest in the region compared to India and Bangladesh. Respon­ding to a question, he said PPRA rules allowed single bidders to win the auction as entry of others was not restricted in the process.

Published in Dawn, September 11th, 2021

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