Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) on Monday issued new licenses to three cellular mobile operators after winning spectrum in the first-ever cellular spectrum auction for Next Generation Mobile Services (NGMS) in Azad Jammu & Kashmir (AJ&K) and Gilgit Baltistan (GB), which generated revenue to the tune of $30.322 million
The license signing ceremony for NGMS in AJ&K and GB was held on Monday where three Cellular Mobile Operators (CMOs) including CMPak (Zong), Telenor Pakistan, and PTML (Ufone) were issued new licenses.
The event was attended by Federal Minister for Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit Baltistan, Ali Amin Khan Gandapur, Chief Minister of Gilgit Baltistan, Muhammad Khalid Khurshid, Federal Secretary for IT & Telecommunication, Dr. Suhail Rajput, Chairman PTA, Maj Gen Amir Azeem Bajwa Retd, Members of the Authority, Special Assistant to Prime Minister AJ&K for Information Technology, Secretary Kashmir and GB Affairs, Executive Director, Frequency Allocation Board (FAB) and senior management of mobile companies.
PTA conducted the electronic auction where two operators i.e. CMPak (Zong), and PMCL (Jazz) participated in the 1800 MHz band. The electronic auction went up to 18 rounds and was concluded by declaring Zong as the winner of 10 MHz (2 blocks of 5 MHz) in the 1800 MHz band against the price of USD 14.398 million. The spectrum sold in the 1800 MHz band was 85 percent of the total offered spectrum in the said band for AJ&K and GB. Furthermore, Telenor, Ufone, and Zong also won 1.2 MHz in the 1800 MHz band. Telenor Pakistan was declared the winner in the 2100 MHz band for a spectrum of 15 MHz against the set base price. The spectrum sold in the 2100 MHz band is 50 percent of the total offered spectrum in the said band.
PTA completed the auction process with the assistance of internationally reputed consultant JV Telconet/Frontier Economics who was onboard since April 2021 and conducted thorough consultation with the cellular industry and other stakeholders.
Ali Amin Khan Gandapur, Federal Minister for Kashmir Affairs & Gilgit Baltistan, addressing on the occasion said that the addition of this spectrum will help CMOs to provide better data and voice services in the two regions.
The minister said that one of the two demands of the area was spectrum auction which has been met. The other demand of giving provincial status to GB is in the final stage. He further said that GB is very important with respect to China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and the additional spectrum would resolve connectivity issues faced by the residents as well as tourists. He said that through NGMS, the digital divide will be reduced and tourism will flourish further in the regions. The minister also appreciated the efforts of PTA for the successful completion of the spectrum auction process.
Chief Minister of Gilgit Baltistan, Khalid Khurshid, said that one of the biggest issues being faced by the region during COVID-19 was connectivity. He said that the education sector suffered the most due to low coverage, however, the additional spectrum would help in reducing the hurdles in the way to connectivity and Prime Minister’s digital vision. He said that the tax-free status of the region would continue to facilitate the public. He also said that besides true leadership, there was also a need for political will to resolve the long-standing issues including spectrum auction. He said the additional spectrum will open up a new era of modern telecom services for the people of AJ&K and GB. He also appreciated the Special Communication Organization (SCO) for providing better connectivity facilities in the area despite the tough terrain and environment.
Federal Secretary for Information Technology and Telecommunication, Dr. Suhail Rajput, said that the Ministry of IT&T is committed to enhancing connectivity and improving digital infrastructure in the country. He also said that the government is planning for 5G auction in the next one and a half years.
Chairman PTA said that authority is working to ensure that Pakistanis have access to high-quality services and benefit from ubiquitous coverage. Continuous efforts are being made to spread state-of-the-art telecommunication services to far-flung areas enabling access to a multitude of opportunities for businesses, education, and health.
The award of licenses for NGMS in the two regions will contribute towards strengthening the uninterrupted provision of better telecom services to the people of AJ&K and GB in line with the GOP vision of a Digital Pakistan. Bajwa said that government would not hold spectrum and would bring for potential buyers as for their demands. He said that the auction of the additional spectrum would pave the way for 5G roadmap.
DG Licensing PTA said that cellular licenses in AJ&K and GB were issued to Jazz, Telenor, and Ufone in 2006. The same was renewed in June 2021 at $13.5 million each (total $40.5 million). 3G/4G standards have been introduced through these licenses on a technology-neutral basis. Cellular license to CMPAK was issued in June 2007 and will be renewed next year, said the DG, adding that additional spectrum was also made available by the government for the first spectrum Auction by PTA in AJ&K and GB to further meet the growing demand for data services in wake of tourism and mobile financial services activities.
He further said that new quality of services (QoS) standards were introduced for 3G/4G i.e. 3G – (1 Mbps) and 4G – (4 Mbps). New network roll-out obligations to meet the growing demand of consumers, with proportionate distribution in urban and rural areas to reduce the digital divide.
Kamal Ahmed, Chief Corporate Affairs Officer, Telenor Pakistan said that a prosperous future cannot be conceived without providing high-tech connectivity to a society. No doubt, ICT will drive the country’s progress forward, said Ahmed, adding that Telenor Pakistan’s mission is to connect people to what matters most to them. Telenor holds the highest market share in the region of AJ&K and GB, now imagine the impact its mobile services will have on the people of AJ&K and GB when it offers high-speed connectivity and services such as mobile health, education, finance, etc, he added.
CEO CMPak said that the additional spectrum would help them ensure better services in the far-flung areas. CMPak would double the number of sites to 800 as during the next three years. 4G would be launched in the area in 2022.
Acting CEO Nadeem Khan said that the additional spectrum would catalyze the connectivity as well as socio-economic development in the area