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Pakistan raised $279 million in a sale of telecom spectrum at the base price

ISLAMABAD ( Web News )

Pakistan raised $279 million in a sale of telecom spectrum at the base price, with Pakistan Telecommunications Mobile Ltd. the sole bidder in an auction that was snubbed by the country’s three other major phone operators.


Pakistan Telecom’s unit Ufone won nine megahertz in the 1,800 megahertz band, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority said in a statement late Friday. Pakistan Telecom will pay half the bid amount within 15 days and the rest over five years, according to the statement. The total value of both bands of spectrum on offer was $832 million at base price, the regulator said, adding that no offer was made for the 2,100 megahertz band.


Jazz, a unit of Veon Ltd., China Mobile Ltd.’s Zong and Telenor Pakistan – which are all in a legal battle with the regulator over renewal of their existing spectrum fees – didn’t take part in the process, the first such auction since Prime Minister Imran Khan came to power three years ago. Veon Chief Executive Officer Kaan Terzioglu earlier this month said Pakistan’s telecom spectrum should be priced in rupees rather than dollars as the pricing is not sustainable.

The spectrum policy, pricing and rollout obligations deterred Telenor from participating in the airwaves sale, spokesman Saad Warriach said after the bidding was closed Thursday. “The existing circumstances did not present the economic viability to invest in the spectrum during this year’s auction,” he said.

Pakistan’s mobile subscriber’s base has reached 84.4% of the country’s 220 million population, according to Pakistan Telecommunication Authority data.

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government faced a major blow in the 2021 spectrum auction as leading telecom players stayed away from participating in the bidding due to a higher price and stringent conditions set by the government.

Only one telecom company, Ufone, a subsidiary of PTCL, participated in the bidding process. The government had set a target of $1 billion by selling additional spectrum to the telecom companies.

Former decision-makers, experts and industry veterans had already hinted that the high base price, continued denomination of spectrum price in US dollar instead of rupee coupled with unrealistic and complex licence conditions could dampen operators’ interest in the auction despite the apparent need for more spectrum to achieve digitalisation and connectivity objectives.

Although the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) reportedly conducted the consultation sessions transparently and incorporated some industry inputs into the auction package for prospective bidders, the auction design and the narrow final timelines set for expressions of investment interest seem to be self-defeating in attracting any new entrant as well as existing operators.

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