Govt issues policy directives for auction of spectrum in GB, AJK.

    Lahore (Nut-Desk)

    Following the government’s decision to provide fast internet services in mountainous regions of the country, the Ministry of Information Technology has issued policy directives to the telecom regulator for the auction of spectrum in AJK and the Gilgit Baltistan (GB) to enhance the quality and outreach of mobile telephony as well as broadband in these areas.

    The auction process to be conducted by PTA is expected to be completed by November this year. It may be mentioned here that students and thousands of tourists visiting the hilly areas have been criticizing the government for not providing the fast internet services in GB and AJK.

    Similarly, additional spectrum has also been approved for the state owned telecom operator in GB and AJK.The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) is expected to issue the Information Memorandum (IM) after receiving the policy directive to all the five cellular operators in the region.

    Currently, there are five operators providing cellular mobile services in AJ&K and GB, including the state owned Special Communication Organisation (SCO), Jazz, Telenor, Zong and Ufone. The SCO is a subsidiary of the ministry of IT and telecom, established in 1976 to develop, operate and maintain all telecom services in Azad Jammu & Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan.

    The government has set the base price of $0.87 million for each megahertz in 1800 MHz and 2100 MHz band, and 16 megahertz spectrum in 1800 MHz band and 30 megahertz spectrum in the 2100 MHz have been placed for auction, to the four mobile operators for 15 years.

    However, additional spectrum of 10 megahertz in both the 1800 MHz and 2100 MHz bands has been approved for SCO. The auction will be beneficial for the governments of both AJK and the GB as a significant amount out of the auction proceeds will be transferred to the AJ&K and GB Councils by the PTA. The policy directive by the IT ministry has said that a significant surge in the demand of mobile broadband services has been witnessed particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

    “This ever-increasing reliance on mobile broadband services necessitated the demand for availability of more spectrum to meet the connectivity needs of the citizens of AJ&K and GB,” the ministry has said.

    If all spectrum available for auction is sold at base price then estimated revenue of $40.02 million will be received by the PTA, however the expected revenue can vary if any spectrum remains unsold or the estimated revenue can be higher if the spectrum is sold at higher than the base price through auction.

    PTA will issue an Information Memorandum (IM) specifying the detailed procedure of the auction, to the four mobile operators including the eligibility criteria and steps for participating in the auction process.

    The specifications set by the government for the mobile operators includes establishing a neutral technology that will be usable for all existing and upcoming advanced generations technologies, within the applicable policy framework of the Government of Pakistan. Along with the existing mobile companies the government has also allowed new entrants to participate in the auction process.