Mobile phone operators have urged Pakistan’s government to grant them additional spectrum in order to offer better speeds and services to customers during the ongoing Coronavirus outbreak.
Mobile phone operators lease a certain amount of spectrum from the government, for which they pay a fee on a recurring basis.
However, amidst surging data demand due to the COVID-19 crisis, both the service quality and speeds have been impacted. To counter it, telcos are urging the government to extend the allotted spectrum (for a limited time until the crisis is over) in order to facilitate the masses.
Over the last few weeks, work-from-home policy has been implemented by a majority of the corporate sector and education institutions have been forced to conduct online classes, increasing demand for cellular data services. There’s been a significant growth in data requirements in tier two cities and suburbs where landline broadband is either not available or unreliable.
According to data published by Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, 76 million users connect to high-speed internet through 3G and 4G services, as compared to less than two million fixed broadband connections.
With the current spectrum, mobile phone operators are doing their best to meet the increased consumer demand but the service quality can be significantly improved if the government decides to extend spectrum allocations for mobile phone companies. If it does, the quality and speed of services (both 3G and 4G) could double or even triple.
“These are extraordinary times, and we expect extraordinary input from the government to help us deal with the increased demand”, said an official of a mobile phone company while speaking with ProPakistani.
A market expert, while discussing the matter with ProPakistani, said that the government is extending all sorts of support to industries to serve their customers and the telecom industry is demanding rightful support from the government.
“This spectrum is laying free and won’t cost the government even a single penny. The move could help customers a very great deal”, he added.
Through my conversation with telecom operators, I can confirm that mobile phone companies would require no additional investment to increase 3G and 4G speeds for customers, and would just require a software upgrade to enhance the quality of services on their networks.
For those who don’t know, spectrum is like a pipe through which data is delivered to cellular users. Bigger pipe means better speeds.
This spectrum is a government asset which it leases to mobile phone operators. There’s sufficient vacant spectrum available with the government that they can allow mobile phone operators to use during the ongoing crisis; and since the spectrum is laying vacant, there’s no harm if the government puts this unused asset to good use.
“We are ready to get this spectrum for a limited time”, said a mobile phone official who requested not to be named, essentially meaning that mobile phone operators would be open to the spectrum being taken back once the coronavirus outbreak is controlled and the crisis is over.