ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet has constituted a 15-member auction advisory committee to oversee spectrum auctions for next-generation mobile services (NGMS).

The committee — led by Finance Minister Miftah Ismail and comprising four other federal ministers, three federal secretaries and representatives from other telecom stakeholders, including the General Headquarters (GHQ) and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) — was constituted by the federal cabinet last weekend.

The committee would be responsible for examining and evaluating the market assessment report and spectrum demand and supply and recommendations of Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) for the release of available spectrum for NGMS in Pakistan.

The committee would also be required to examine and finalise the policy directive for the federal government for the release of the NGMS spectrum in Pakistan and oversee the spectrum auction and release process to be conducted by the PTA.

Headed by Miftah, auction advisory committee includes four other ministers and GHQ, ISI representatives

Informed sources said the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication had proposed four federal ministers for the committee — including the finance minister as its chairman and three other ministers — for information technology, economic affairs and science and technology.

However, the nomination of the minister for science and technology was replaced and instead two more ministers — for power and commerce — were included in the auction advisory committee on the recommendations of the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the cabinet.

Other members of the committee include secretaries for finance, IT and law divisions besides the PTA chairman, executive director of the Frequency Allocation Board, a representative of GHQ, technical director general of ISI, legal and telecom members of the IT ministry and any other person that the committee may wish to co-opt.

The spectrum auctions for NGMS in Pakistan were conducted in 2014, 2016, 2017 and 2021 under the policy directives issued by the federal government.

Consequently, the paired spectrum of 30 megahertz in the 1900/2100 MHz band, 29MHz in 1800MHz band and 10MHz in 850MHz band was auctioned and assigned to cellular mobile operators.

In October 2020, the government constituted an auction advisory committee to release the next-generation mobile services spectrum in Pakistan for improving mobile Broadband services amid the Covid-19 pandemic, which was later revised in March 2021 to include a representative of Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan in the committee.

The IT and telecom ministry issued the policy directive on Aug 4 last year, after the federal cabinet ratified the decision of the ECC to approve the committee’s policy recommendations.

Subsequently, the PTA completed the spectrum auction process with the help of an internationally reputed consultant — Frontier Economics — in September.

The Pak Telecom Mobile Limited (PTML/Ufone) acquired 2x9MHz in the 1800 MHz band for 15 years while there was no bid for the offered spectrum in the 2100MHz band.

The IT ministry proposed that to increase the capacity and improve service quality, the federal government should issue a policy directive to undertake a spectrum auction under Section 8(2) of the Pakistan Telecommunication (Re-Organisation) Act 1996 to offer the available frequency bands to all interested new and existing operators in an open, transparent and competitive manner. Therefore, the cabinet approved the constitution of a new auction advisory committee.

Published in Dawn, July 18th, 2022

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