PTA may not be able to present clean spectrum

The government may not be able to present clean (clear from interference) spectrum in the 850 MHz range (3G) for auction to the Cellular Operators in the upcoming Next Generation Mobile Services process, it is learnt. Cellular operators will have to face interference issues in the 850 MHz range as some degree of co-channel interference along borders with neighbouring countries will persist, official sources revealed to Business Recorder on Saturday.

Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) on May 23 arranged an information session for prospective bidders to explain the auction process, rules and other details. The meeting was attended by Mobilink, Telenor, World Call and Multi Net. The stakeholders presented and raised a number of questions with respect to upcoming spectrum auction.

The auction committee of PTA has prepared response to proposals/demands of Telecom Operators on Information Memorandum (IM) and licence template and shared with all stakeholders. Telecom stakeholders raised questions with respect to 850 MHz /900 MHz coexistence and stated that Pakistan has had a mixed band plan for a long time. Further co-existence between 850 MHz and 900 MHz networks typically requires transmit filters on the 850 MHz base stations and receive filters on at least some 900 MHz base stations.

They further stated that 900 MHz operators may have benefited from the absence of an 850 MHz operator and omitted external receive filters on their base stations. This situation will persist, and may need to install receive filters in order to coexist with the 850 MHz network in future.

In cases where interference is discovered, Frequency Allocation Board (FAB) will ensure that the situation is addressed and that the sources of interference are removed. In the unlikely case that FAB is unable to remove interference from a significant part of city or a region, the 850 MHz operator can expect that the same principles will apply to it as have applied eg to Zong in the 900 MHz and 2100 MHz band. This means that under some circumstances, the 850 MHz operator may be offered compensatory spectrum in the city or region where significant and persistent interference cannot be removed. “The 850 MHz must, however, expect some degree of co-channel interference along borders with neighbouring countries”, operators added.

The PTA auction committee responded that their understanding about the discussion was correct. The spectrum in the 850 MHZ range, the government is going for auction will have interference issues, especially in the borders areas, the official added. China Mobile Pakistan (CMPak) had sent a legal notice last year to the PTA demanding that it be allocated a substitute band of spectrum as well as a partial refund of its spectrum costs and $40 million in damages for loss of market share and loss of revenues.
Published Business Recorder