Govt may sell off 5 to 10 MHz spectrum


ISLAMABAD: The government is exploring options to sell off 5 to 10 megahertz (MHz) spectrum in an auction in order to fetch $150 to $300 million into the national kitty.

Now two options are under consideration: either to sell off the remaining spectrum auction in the 2100 band in the range of 5 to 10 MHz at the last base price or convene Auction Advisory Committee (AAC) meeting and assign Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to hire a new consultant to accomplish the required procedure and hold open bidding for auctioning the spectrum.

One of the existing players has written a letter to government and asked for provision of 5 MHz at a rate of approximately $29 million per one MHz. “The cellular company has made a request to the federal government for granting 5-megahertz (MHz) spectrum at a fixed rate. However, the government convened Auction Advisory Committee (AAC) meeting under chairmanship of Minister for Finance Miftah Ismail on Wednesday (today) for taking final decision,” said top official sources.

The spectrum auctions for Next Generation Mobile Services (NGMS) in Pakistan conducted in 2014, 2016, 2017 and 2021 under the policy directives issued by the federal government. Consequently, a paired spectrum of 30 MHz in 1900/2100 in band, 29 MHz in 1800 MHz band and 10 MHz in 850 MHz band was auctioned and assigned to the cellular mobile operators.

In October 020, the federal government2 constituted an advisory committee on the “Release of Next Generation Mobile Services (NGMS) Spectrum in Pakistan amid COVID-19”, which was later revised in March 2021 for inclusion of AJK and GB representative in Advisory Committee (Annex-I).

The Ministry of IT Telecommunication (MoIT&T) issued the Policy Directive on 4th August 2021 after the federal cabinet ratified the decision of the Economic Coordination Committee (FCC) to approve the committee’s policy recommendations. Subsequently, the PTA completed the spectrum auction process with the assistance of an internationally-reputed consultant, Frontier Economics, in September 2021. Pak Telecom Mobile Limited (PTML/Ufone) acquired 2×9 MHz in 1800 MHz band for 15 years while there was no bid for the offered spectrum in 2100 MHz band.

For enhancement of capacity and improved quality of service, the federal government may issue policy directive to undertake a spectrum auction under Section 8(2) of the Pakistan Telecommunication (Re-organization) Act 1996 to offer the available frequency bands to all interested new and existing operators in an open, transparent competitive way.

Previous exercises have been conducted through an auction under the an advisory committee for the cabinet over the release of the prime minister/federal. The ECC that an advisory committee may be approved spectrum with the composition and Terms Reference (ToRs), including to examine & evaluate the market assessment report, spectrum & supply and recommendations of Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) for the release of available demand for Next Generation Mobile Services (NGMS) in Pakistan, to examine & finalize the policy directive for the federal government for the release of Next Generation Mobile Services (NGMS) spectrum in Pakistan, to oversee the spectrum auction/release process to be conducted by the PTA.

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