The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) is set to begin selling off unused spectrum this week as it looks to generate around $1 billion, as well as boosting network capacity.
India’s Economic Times quoted three senior government officials speaking on condition of anonymity as saying that the Pakistani government planned to retain an international consulting firm to structure the auction process and advise on reserve pricing and other aspects of the sale.
A PTA spokesman confirmed that the hiring process for a consultant on "Spectrum Auction 2020-21" has begun, but provided no further information. The auction is seen as a forerunner to the advent of commercial 5G in Pakistan.
No date has yet been proposed for the auction, but the officials confirmed that 1800MHz and 2100MHz spectrum will be made available. These frequencies are typically used for 4G/LTE networks.
Pakistan’s government is hoping that the upcoming auction will raise some much-needed funds. Tax collections and an economic downturn were already biting before the Covid-19 pandemic worsened the situation.
Separately, TeleGeography reports that the PTA has published a consultation paper regarding Pakistan’s WiLL regime, with the sector having been on a downwards trajectory since 2013.
Between 2011-2012, the technology reached its apex with 3.11 million users, but by 2016 this figure had dropped to 200,000, although it recovered substantially the following year to reach 300,000. The sector was hammered by the advent of 3G and 4G mobile data, which provided cheaper and faster data access without mobility limits.
WiLL technology uses spectrum in the 450MHz, 1900MHz and 3.5GHz bands. With licences for these frequencies due to expire in 2024, the government is assessing whether this spectrum could be more valuable if used for different technologies – particularly 3.5GHz spectrum, which is in high demand for 5G use.
The regulator is asking stakeholders in the sector for feedback on the viability of the sector up to and beyond 2024.