The government has decided to postpone the auction of the next-generation mobile services (NGMS) spectrum in Pakistan, Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), and Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) until the next fiscal year.
Earlier, the government had planned the spectrum auction in the outgoing fiscal year for the improvement of mobile broadband services, for which it had estimated the generation of over one billion dollars of revenue.
According to the sources, postponing the auction until the next fiscal year will help the government to show a better non-tax revenue in the budget 2021-22
According to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), the officials are fully prepared to hold the auction but are waiting for the government policy directive, which is yet to be approved.
The federal Minister for Finance and Revenue, Shaukat Tarin, chaired the fourth meeting of the Advisory Committee on 25 May 2021 for the release of the NGMS Spectrum in Pakistan, AJK, GB.
After a detailed discussion, the Advisory Committee approved the draft policy directives for the release of the NGMS Spectrum in Pakistan, AJK, and GB unanimously for the improvement of mobile broadband services with setting base price of $31 million and $29 million for the spectrum auction in 1,800 MHz and 2,100 MHz bands respectively.
After the approval, the draft policy directive will be sent to the federal cabinet for approval, following which, the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunications will send the policy to the PTA for implementation and the holding of the spectrum auction.
After receiving the policy directive, the PTA will issue a Memorandum of Information (MI) for the auction. Cellular operators will be required to respond to it within 15 days, and then a final date will be issued for the auction.
Official sources revealed that the Advisory Committee for the release of the NGMS Spectrum in Pakistan, AJK, and GB had been informed about the timeline and challenges in the spectrum auction. There is very little time left in the current fiscal year and the spectrum auction is no longer possible. Now, the spectrum auction will be held in the next fiscal year, sources added.
According to the draft policy (a copy of which is available), the spectrum auctions for the NGMS in Pakistan were conducted in 2014, 2016, and 2017 under the policy directives issued by the Federal Government of Pakistan.
Subsequently, the demand for data services had grown exponentially, and in a short period of seven years, the broadband subscribers in the country had increased from a mere 14 million in 2014 to over 100 million in April 2021.
A significant surge in the demand for broadband services was observed particularly pandemic. This ever-increasing reliance on wireless mobile broadband services has necessitated the demand for the availability of more spectrums to meet the connectivity needs of the people of Pakistan.