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Body formed to auction spectrum as internet demand surges

By Our Correspondent
September 10, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The government on Wednesday constituted advisory committee to auction more radio frequencies to mobile phone operators to let them offer fast speed and expand penetration and approved continuation of concessionary gas and electricity tariffs for the export sector.

The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of cabinet approved the formation of an advisory committee for the release of unsold spectrum for the

next generation mobile services spectrum to improve mobile broadband services.

The committee comprises of advisers on finance, commerce, ministers for telecommunication, industries and production, planning, development and special initiatives.

The committee was tasked to evaluate the market assessment report and recommendations of the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) for release of maximum spectrum, finalise the policy directives for the release of spectrum and oversee the auction process.

The mobile data traffic in Pakistan increased over 400 percent to 1.75 gigabytes per user per month in 2018 from 0.34Gb/user/month in 2016. 5G test and trials have already been started in Pakistan and government identified

2600, 3500 MHz and millimeter wave bands for the trial purpose, according the PTA.

“Between now and 5G commercial launch, operators will be looking for spectrum to support the growth of data traffic as well as to offer faster speeds through available techniques like carrier aggregation,” it said in an annual report.

Mobile services continued to lead the sector by providing reliable and affordable connectivity. Mobile sector showed a steady growth in subscribers on its networks and increased subscriber base to 163.5 million at the end of FY 2019, showing a year-on-year growth of 7 percent.

ECC also approved the continuation of concessionary rates of electricity and regasified liquefied natural gas for export-oriented sectors, erstwhile zero-rated sectors.

For July-August, the electricity to export oriented sectors may be provided at US cents 7.5/kWh all inclusive and thereafter at US Cents 9/kWh all inclusive for the rest of the current fiscal year of 2021.

ECC also decided that finance division would continue with the existing guarantee of for the power sector through Power Holding Company.

ECC also approved the amendment in the minutes of an earlier decision related to subsidy of the Naya Pakistan Housing and Development Authority.

There was an approval of allocation of Rs33.1 billion on account of 10 years markup subsidy on loans with tenor up to 20 years with supplementary grant of Rs4.7 billion on account of markup payment during the current fiscal year.

The government issued a policy directive in May last year for renewal of cellular mobile license of three operators: Telenor, Jazz and CMPak setting per MHz renewal price for frequency spectrum in 900 MHz and 1,800 MHz as U$39.5 million and $29.5 million, respectively. They deposited half of respective renewal fee amounting to total of $ 687.8 million.

Pakistan has a total teledensity of 77.7 percent where the main contribution is by the mobile sector with penetration crossing 76.4 percent. The country has over 44,000 cell sites covering the length and breadth of the country and PTA encourages sharing of resources like infrastructure.

“Broadband has taken the country by storm and growth in both subscription and usage has been the rapid. Today, we have a total broadband subscriber base of 76.3 million,” the PTA said in the annual report.