ISLAMABAD: Pakistan still needs huge investments to develop an enabling environment and the required infrastructure to launch 5G, said Julian Gorman, the head of GSMA Asia-Pacific, on Thursday.

Talking to the media, Mr Gorman expressed his disappointment that the situation had not changed much since he visited Pakistan three years ago regarding the Digital Pakistan initiative.

He referred to the GSMA intelligence report highlighting that policymakers in Pakistan had an opportunity to accelerate the progress on the Digital Pakistan initiative and lay a strong foundation for 5G launching in the country.

“This can only be done by implementing vital reforms using the Whole-of-Government Approach (WGA) to improve the financial health of the overall telecom sector and the ability of industry players to invest and innovate in the business,” he said.

“The scale of investment needed to develop infrastructure for the launch of 5G is significant and taking into account the current rate of investment it will take a long time, maybe years, for Pakistan to achieve that level,” Mr Gorman said.

He said the top challenge for Pakistan’s IT & telecom sector was that at present it could not attract investment.

Mr Gorman said the IT industry in Pakistan was facing financial constraints as the cost of doing business was getting higher and higher day by day, but the returns on investment as well as options for business developments were decreasing.

He said that the advantages of 5G were not limited to mobile phone users only, but it was more of an enabling feature for transforming the industry into a highly digitised industry, but, he claimed, it was not the right time for Pakistan to launch 5G in the country.

The head of GSMA said that apart from a competitive environment, Pakistan needed to have clear and implementable policies so that the overall economic system was transparent for modernisation of IT and telecom sectors in the country.

Mr Gorman said that Pakistan should amend certain policies such as delinking the government payments in US dollars, especially after the devaluation of the currency by around 30 per cent.

“The tariffs and earnings are in rupee terms whereas payments to the government are made at the rate of the dollar,” he said, adding that the rupee devaluation had put more financial burden on the industry.

Published in Dawn, November 25th, 2022

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