Official: Pakistan to Auction 4G Spectrum for $295 Million

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has approved a policy directive for the auction of unsold next generation mobile services (NGMS) spectrum with a base price of $295 million.

After the approval of the Prime Minister, who is also the minister-in-charge of the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication, the ministry issued policy directives to Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) for the unsold NGMS spectrum auction.

The auction shall accordingly be conducted by PTA in the minimum possible time within the financial year 2016-17, as per the policy directives.

Background of 3G/4G Auction

The spectrum auction for Next Generation Mobile Services in Pakistan was conducted in April 2014 under the policy directive issued by the federal government. 30 MHz paired spectrum in 1.9/2.1 GHz, 20 MHz paired spectrum in 1.8 GHz band and 7.38 MHz paired spectrum in 850 MHz band (only for new entrant) were put to auction.

During the auction, all 30 MHz paired spectrum in 1.9/2.1 GHz and 10 MHz paired spectrum in 1.8 GHz band were sold whereas a block each in 1.8 GHz and 850 MHz remained unsold.

Consequent to the auction, issuance of respective licenses and launch of 3G/4G mobile broadband services the demand for data services grew exponentially along with the subscriber base that expanded from less than 3% to over 17% (28 million at the end of 1Q’2016).

This growth spawned demand for more frequency spectrum and subsequently, 10 MHz paired spectrum in 850 MHz was auctioned in June 2016 by PTA.

The growth in the sector and demand for mobile broadband services is continuously gaining momentum. As of January 2017, there are more than 38 million mobile broadband subscribers and cellular operators are constantly adding millions of subscribers on a quarterly basis. To keep up with the growth, more frequency spectrum is expected to be required by the operators.

Keeping in view the above situation, the Prime Minister constituted an Advisory Committee to determine among other elements of policy regarding auction of frequency spectrum, the base price of the spectrum by analyzing the market developments.

The Advisory committee based on the emerging market scenario analysis conducted by PTA, Frequency Allocation Board, and MoIT&T, has recommended auctioning of the 10 MHz paired spectrum in the 1800 MHz frequency band as a single block.

Based on the recommendation of Advisory committee, the federal government, using powers conferred by the section 8(2) of the Pakistan Telecommunication (Re-organization) Act 1996 (Amended 20(6), issued the following directives for compliance of the PTA.

(i) Transparent competitive auction process will be launched by PTA for assigning a single block of 10 MHz paired spectrum in the 1800 MHz band.

ii. PTA will design the auction process to ensure fulfillment of the policy objective of optimal outcome mitigating chances of collusion among bidders. The auction shall accordingly be conducted by PTA in the minimum possible time after the issuance of this directive within the financial year 2016-17.

iii. Base price for the 10 MHz paired spectrum as a single block shall be $295 million and payments terms and other conditions will be based on 2014 NGMS auction Information Memorandum (1M).

iv. All existing cellular mobile operators (CMOs) as well as new players will be eligible to participate in the auction.

v. The spectrum assignment will be technology neutral and usable for all Next Generation Mobile Services (including 3G/4G and advanced generations).

vi. New license for the provision of NGMS will be issued to the successful bidder. The tenure of frequency assignment will be 15 years.

vii. For efficient and optimal rollout of next generation mobile services, provisions of spectrum, infrastructure, Quality of Service (QoS) and national roaming as provided in the Telecommunication Policy 2015 will be applicable.

      • Jazz and Warid are same ? Bhai they are two different brands ……

        For service, they have diff channels in 2G, mobilink has only 3G and in 4G they are using same limited bandwidth

        Only the management is same, but not the whole of them

        • This is the dumbest comment I’ve ever read.

          The merger is set to complete by the end of this year where both brands will be referred to as Jazz. The differences in spectrum and technologies is irrelevant right now, they’re all being used by Jazz.

          In the case of this auction, Jazz and Warid can’t bid as separate parties because Warid doesn’t exist anymore.

          Technically we can’t even refer to it as Jazz and Warid, we can call it Mobilink and Warid, Jazz is the combination of both networks.

          I stand by my statement, MOBILINK and Warid are the same, they’re Jazz now.

  • Telenor’s chances are rare because they have bought 4G spectrum last year with the price of $395 Million a $100 million more than this, and now require further investment to expand its 4G coverage. So Telenor will definitley not take part in this.

    Jazz doesn’t require more spectrum at the moment. Because after merged spectrum Jazz will be able to run its 3G services on 10 MHz of its existing 2100 MHz spectrum. And for 4G Jazz can refarm 5 MHz of its own existing 1800 MHz spectrum as well with Warid’s 5 MHz which will made their 4G a 10 MHz. And further Jazz will have 5 MHz of 900 MHz spare spectrum apart from 2G (remaining 4.8 MHz of 1800 and around 7 MHz of 900 MHz for 2G) which they can use either for 3G or 4G.
    And Jazz will also have to renew Warid’s license in 2018-19 which is going to expire. So Jazz will need huge investment to expand its 4G footprints and license renewal. And their chances of bidding are also minimum.

    Zong has already expanded its 4G footprints at various places and only need spectrum to run operations. They are feeling congestion as well on 4G network because they insanely soled MBB devices. But they have already refarmed their old 5 MHz of 1800 MHz and are using 15 MHz of 4G at most places. And looking at tax situation of the industry, chances of their bid are 50/50

    This is a last chance to Ufone for survival. Jazz and Zong are eating their customers every month. And they must have to bid in this spectrum. But question is do they have this much money? Do they have investment to expand 4G coverage because their 3G coverage is still missing at most places, even at some key places. And my answer is a Big NO. If they did have investment, they would have gone for 4G last year. They will remain silent like last year and will keep selling Super Cards as per my guess.

    • I think Ufone will buy this spectrum.Recently they have also reframed their 900 Mhz for Spectrum also.

      • They only refarmed 900 MHz in 3 or 4 cities. What about other metropolitans like Karachi, Faisalabad, Multan, Peshawer and Hyderabad? And what about their lack of 3G coverage at small cities where Zong is running on 4G? Spectrum refarming doesn’t require much investment, 4G spectrum and coverage does.

    • Well if you look closely base price is quite low for this auction though frequency is quite premium… I mean just compare it with what telenor got in relatively more amount and with less premium frequency. May be its a move to give it to ufone for cheap provided other operators don’t participate. I may be wrong but base price should have been atleast 395$

      • Base price is still $100 million more than for same frequency Zong bought in 2014. Now base price is low because demand is low. Jazz and Telenor doesn’t require further spectrum. Only Zong might opt for it. Ufone needs it deffinitly but what if two operators bid for it? Price will increase in any ways. And its not just a spectrum price, Ufone requires huge investment to expand 4G coverage all over the country which Zong has already does. And currently Ufone didn’t even have money expand its 3G coverage. They have stopped expanding 3G for a year now.

        But Zong only need spectrum, they have already expanded. So they can go higher while biding as much as they can defeat Ufone.

    • very detailed analysis indeed.
      as per my observation Govt have to reduce the base price to sell it to Jazz or Zong in a requesting manner. no other player will even bid for it now.

      • How can you even think that?

        For one operator to have just a 10 MHz block of the 1800 MHz band is a stupid idea for a country this big. It will either have 2G only services since 3G isn’t possible using 1800 MHz, or take inspiration from Jio in India and go 4G only, which I highly doubt will happen due to the current situation of this country and it’s ridiculously high taxes.

        There isn’t even a 1% chance that a new operator will participate in the auction.

  • As per my analysis it most likley Jazz because 51 Million customers and 14.8 Mhz (approx) is too less for voice and data

    • Are you serious? What about 10 MHz of 2100 MHz 3G. 12 MHz of 900 MHz which is being used for 2G only right now? And for your info 4G doesn’t support voice or sms data in Pakistan. It requires VoLTE technology for it which is not even common right now in the world. And 4G can only be deployed in 3, 5, 10, 15 or 20 MHz blocks.

  • If Ufone didn’t buy it then bye bye Ufone!
    I think they will go for it this time otherwise Ufone will become history for sure.
    So my bet is on Ufone. They r gonna get the license.

  • There should be only 4G and 2G just for Voice which should be phased out in 5+ years……….. no need to invest in 3G……….. anybody who has more than 20Mhz or more of 4G will survive .. the rest will be washed out or reduced to a cost cutting operator for the low ARPU market segment……….. the devices are getting stronger everyday…………(anyone of Zong or JAZZ that can buy it will become the market leaders)…..

  • Its really shame they ignored Azad Kashmir altogether .There is no 3/4G in the area in this fast moving world.Would anybody dare to answer , why ?

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