ISLAMABAD: The timely rollout of 5G mobile phone connectivity is contingent on political stability in the country, which has already wasted two months and may delay the launch of services.
This was confirmed by top officials in the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication (MoIT&T) while talking to Business Recorder.
The previous government had planned to auction 5G spectrum latest by end March 2023 in the country with the initial launch in big cities. However, due to political instability in the country, around two months have been wasted which has impacted the initial plan, sources added.
Federal Minister for MoIT&T Syed Aminul Haque confirmed to Business Recorder that due to political instability two months of time has been wasted. When asked about the launch of 5G by end of March 2023, the minister said that the auction would be held before the general election in the country.
Top officials at Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) said that the question of timeline for 5G auction should be directed towards the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication.
The official further stated, “If it is a priority item for the new government and the telecom industry, then the Authority can do the spectrum auction before the election.”
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Jazz Aamir Ibrahim has stated on record that 5G is hardly to make any business case in the next two years because less than one percent consumers afford such handsets in the country.
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He further said that people think that better internet would be provided once the 5G is launched in the country, but it could be provided with 4G even now by government interventions for greater propagation.
The government has revealed that 4G-coverage is considered pre-requisite for 5G launch and 5G services can be deployed in the area where 4G services have already been provided.
He further said that first the 15 percent population currently having no telecom services at all should be focused on.
Official documents revealed that the Government of Pakistan is planning to launch 5G in the country and MOIT&T is in the process of finalizing policy guidelines for 5G in consultation with the PTA/ Frequency Allocation Board (FAB) and other stakeholders. However, no consulting services have been procured so far for the said purpose. The documents further revealed that no expenditure was incurred by PTA as no consulting services have been procured so far. The previous government was planning of launching 5G services in the country in the first quarter of 2023. The Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication has evaluated seven bands for the adoption of 5G services in the country.
Official documents revealed that the ministry is presently in a process of assessing the options available for the timely launch of 5G services in Pakistan.
In this connection, the following bands are being evaluated for adoption of 5G services as low bands, mid bands and high bands: (a) 700 MHz; (b) 2.3 GHz; (c) 2.6 GHz; (d) 3.5 GHz; (e) MiIIi8meter wave bands; (f) C-Band (3.6-4.2) GHz and (g) Unlicensed Backhaul Frequency bands (P2P & P2MP).
The ministry in view of these bands has requested the Frequency Allocation Board (FAB) for sharing the current status and availability of all 5G spectrum in the above-identified frequency bands.
Cellular operators are continuously expanding their networks. Currently, Pakistan has 90 percent tele-density with a mobile penetration of 89 percent. Total mobile subscribers stand at 193.4 million. These numbers are on a continuous increase. All CMOs are putting their efforts to expand 4G coverage nationwide as per license conditions.
Approximately 60 percent of the population is covered with 4G coverage. New rollout conditions have been imposed on operators’ licenses to increase the pace of 4G rollout in Pakistan. In addition, population-based rollout obligations are introduced to provide 4G coverage to the maximum population of Pakistan. However, network expansion and smart-phone adoption is impacted by heavy tax regime, which needs to be reviewed by government.
The 4G coverage is considered prerequisite for 5G launch and 5G services can be deployed in the area where 4G services have already been provided. The Cellular Operators are obliged to extend 4G coverage as per license conditions and charge consumers on the basis of data used/ consumed by the subscribers irrespective of the technology, i.e., 2G/ 3G/ 4G.
All cellular mobile operators are charging the same tariffs/ offering uniform packages for 2G/ 3G /4G services and there is no differentiation between the charging mechanisms.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2022