IM. has met with tremendous criticism and anger from numerous circles of telecom sector

ISLAMABAD ( ABRAR MUSTAFA )

The information memorandum (IM) that was issued by Pakistan Telecom Authority (PTA) has met with tremendous criticism and anger from numerous circles of telecom sector. It seems that after a detailed examination there are many elements that are not only arguable but have caused suspicion to rise among telecom companies and main stakeholders of the upcoming 3G and 4G auction.

The Information Memorandum that was released by PTA few days back has met with numerous criticism from various key players in the industry. The IM states that the auction of the spectrum will reserve one spectrum for new company that is for foreign company. This seems fishy since this spectrum price is lower compared to the base price on which other companies will bid on.

IM mentioned that Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) working under policy directives from the GoP, is planning to undertake an auction to award Licenses to use spectrum in the 2100 MHz, 1800 MHz and 850 MHz ranges and to grant the successful bidders rights to establish, maintain and operate Next Generation Mobile Networks (NGMN) and to provide Next Generation Mobile Services (NGMS) across Pakistan. The process of the award is titled the Next Generation Mobile Services Award (NGMSA) and it will be overseen by the Advisory Committee as per the policy directives by the Government of Pakistan (GoP).

The spectrum included in the NGMSA comprises:

2×30 MHz of paired spectrum in the 2100 MHz band

2×20 MHz of paired spectrum in the 1800 MHz band

2×7.38 MHz of paired spectrum in the 850 MHz band (offered for new entrant(s) only)

PTA has decided to assign 2×30 MHz of spectrum from the 2100 MHz band and 2×20 MHz from the 1800 MHz band. The 2×7.38 MHz in 850 MHz band will be allocated only to a new Market Entrant (In case of multiple potential Market Entrants, the Spectrum will be offered through a mechanism defined by PTA and GOP among the potential Market Entrants).

The spectrum in the NGMSA will be assigned on a technology neutral basis for next generation mobile services; however some constraints are required for spectrum management reasons.

Another aspect of the Information memorandum that warrants attention is the plan of government to push for implementation of both 3G and 4G networks simultaneously within four years. This seems imprudent since this seems repetition of hard work and investment of money for no reason.

It is worthwhile to mention that the much awaited auction is happening under the direct supervision of Dr. Ishaq Dar, Finance minister of Pakistan, who was also pivotal in the formulation of the information memorandum. According to information memorandum the government intends to sell out 850 MHz of spectrum without any kind of auction which has caused tenacious uproar among the concerned parties. This amount of spectrum hasn’t been explained in detail except for mentioning it in the information memorandum that has only added more fuel to the fire. Furthermore all companies that will successfully complete the bid will have to establish both 3G and 4G network across Pakistan within four years.

PTA has prescribed 10th March as the official date at which companies can bring their reservations on which a new notification will be issued on 17th March.  According to the notification all companies taking part in the auction will be taken into consideration on 19th March where any questions or ambiguity will be cleared.

It is imperative that PTA should clear all concerns of the parties involved if it wants the auction to go smoothly which has already seen many delays. There are sources that confirm that backchannels between PTA and telecom companies are working together to resolve the issues. These sources have reported that the demand of PTA that the 100% upfront payment of the spectrum sold is deemed unjustifiable and unethical by the companies.

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