Jazz opposes rolling out 5G

Published February 16, 2023
Jazz Ltd CEO Aamir Ibrahim addresses a business conference on Wednesday. — Photo courtesy Aamir Ibrahim Twitter
Jazz Ltd CEO Aamir Ibrahim addresses a business conference on Wednesday. — Photo courtesy Aamir Ibrahim Twitter

KARACHI: Jazz Ltd CEO Aamir Ibrahim said on Wednesday the rollout of 5G, which is the fifth-generation technology standard for broadband cellular networks, should be put on hold.

Speaking at a business conference organised by Nutshell Group, the CEO of the largest telecom firm with a market share of over 38 per cent said the stakeholders should strive to do a better job by ensuring “4G for all rather than 5G for a few”.

“Customers think 5G is faster internet. Governments think it means hundreds of millions of dollars in auctions. Vendors of equipment think 5G (will) boost their sales. Yet telecom operators think (5G) is none of the above,” he said.

News reports suggest that all private-sector telecom players, except China Mobile-owned Zong, are opposing the rollout of 5G because of myriad challenges they’re facing on economic and government fronts. Cellular companies have been demanding that their major problems like high tax rates, stagnant revenue per user, profit repatriation and rising energy costs should first be addressed before the rollout of the next generation of technology standard.

According to Mr Ibrahim, less than 1pc of cellular devices in Pakistan are 5G-equipped. The average price of a 5G handset is about $200 or Rs55,000, which substantially reduces the number of potential customers.

Telcos should strive to ensure 4G for all, says CEO

He said the government still treats telecom as a “luxury” sector and taxes it as such. “That thinking must change,” he said while noting that 98pc of the internet use in Pakistan is on mobile phones.

Calling telecom a “cross-sectoral enabler,” he said fields like finance, education and agriculture are becoming more technology-oriented based on their heavy reliance on cellular services.

“The internet is the electricity of the future and data is the new oil. But unfortunately, we’re not priced like oil or energy,” he said, adding that telecom players should be able to price their products in line with inflation given that his firm’s energy bill for next year will be “almost three times” of what it was last year.

‘Elite capture is good’

Addressing the conference, Habib Bank Ltd CEO Muhammad Aurangzeb made a strong case in favour of “elite capture” — a negative term that means the use of public resources for the benefit of a select few with superior social status.

“There’s actually nothing wrong with elite capture as long as that elite capture does the right thing in the country,” he said while attributing the favourable use of a decidedly negative term to Princeton University-based economist Atif Mian.

Giving the example of South Korea, Mr Aurangzeb said its elite capture is reflected in the dominance of “Samsungs and Hyundais of the world” that’re focused on exports. But the same elite capture manifests itself in Pakistan through real estate investments. “We can’t have elite capture and do the most unproductive thing in the world,” he said.

Mr Aurangzeb said the structural benchmarks under the IMF loan programme are “absolutely aligned” with what the economy needs. “We’re not going to graduate from this (IMF) programme,” he said, noting that the government that comes to power after the next election will have to stick to the IMF’s extended fund facility “Part 2”.

Published in Dawn, February 16th, 2023

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