Information and Communications Technology (ICT) experts recommended the government to immediately auction 3G/4G licenses in the country as the inaction was hindering growth in the telecom sector as well as causing losses to national economy. They urged the government to focus on setting obligatory performance benchmarks rather than mere generate revenues during the license auction process. They also suggested the government to make it mandatory for successful bidders of adequately investment and expand the ICT sector through ensuring long term commitment and quality services that can kindle growth in IT & telecom sector as well as accumulated overall growth in the country.
The experts were discussing the subject at the 57th Meeting of SDPI’s Study Group on ICT with emphasis on “Adoption of 3G/4G technology by Pakistan” organized by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) here on Thursday. The study group is comprised of pioneers in IT & Telecom sector from government, telecom industry, academia, consultants and practitioner’s in ICT sector in Pakistan. Participants lamented over the failure of government to introduce 3G technologies, which Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) was ready to roll out three years ago, but wasted valuable time and now the 4G technologies are being adopted by many countries around the world including India.
Dr Ijaz Gilani, Chairman Gallop Pakistan as well as this Group, presided over the proceedings. He said SDPI ICT Study Group represents a technology triangle comprising professionals from government, business community and academia. He said during the last 20 years of its existence, 57 meetings of the group have been held which have made remarkable technical and policy-oriented contributions in the field of ICT development in the country. He said many institutions have been created in IT sector but there exists an absence of a dynamic network which is filled by the functional existence of this group.
Dr Abid Suleri, Executive Director, SDPI was of the view that since its inception in 1992 under the National Conservation Strategy and approved by the then federal cabinet, SDPI has been playing the role of a catalyst in IT development and liberalization in the country by facilitating the ICT Study Group which is guided by the collective wisdom of high-profile and experienced IT professionals of the country.
Brig (R) Mohammad Yaseen of SDPI said the ICT Group was initially formed in 1991 with its secretariat in PM secretariat but eventually it was abandoned in 1993 by the then acting prime minister, Moeen Qureshi, due to resignation of Group’s chairman and bureaucratic considerations. ‘Since then, SDPI started hosting this Group which has made significant contributions in the fields of telecommunications, computers, data processing, networking, mass media and other issues related to the generation, processing, management and use of information besides preparation of policy and planning recommendations that could subsequently be pursued by the relevant agencies’ he added.
Salman Ansari, CEO Telecommunication Consultants, said that future mobile telecommunication would be dominated by data services where voice would be just an additional component which makes it critically important to switch over to 3G technologies at the earliest. Sharing global technology trends, he said that growth in fixed line broadband was shrinking whereas share of wireless broadband is persistently on the rise. He said, currently there is confusion and lack of clarity in Pakistan over adopting 3G technology or having leap frog by jumping directly to 4G technologies. He stressed for a hybrid approach arguing that 3G mobile broadband is an evolutionary process to optimize current assets, before moving towards new and further advanced systems, network radio interfaces and spectrum. He termed ‘National IT & Telecom Policy 2005’ as outdated and called for a coherent national action plan. He cautioned without proper homework, desperate moves to switch on 3G may lead a failure.
Shahid Mahmood, CEO Interactive Group of Companies, deliberated that further delay in 3G auction will adversely impact economic growth potential that could be otherwise realized immediately. While redefining the 3G technologies in macro-economic context, he said that, increasing the broadband speed leads to economic gains such as every 10 percent increase in broadband penetration the GDP growth is around one percent. He said, around 80 new jobs are created for every 1000 new broadband connections in Pakistan. He called for identification of additional spectrum to enable broadband technology deployments.
During the discussion session, the participants underscored the need for spectrum reformation in telecom sector with possibility of taking back SPTV spectrum, striking a balance between upfront auction value and obligations, having technology neutral approach in licensing, clubbing of new license hindrance with 3G auction, in built approach in licensing process for capacity building of Pakistani telecom professionals. They lamented government for not having IT minister for the last four years and demanded to sensitize parliamentarians on technical telecom issues and challenges in rapidly developing world.