The government plans to issue its first licences for third-generation (3G) mobile telecom services in October, hoping to generate nearly $1 billion through an open auction, officials said on Thursday.
The fifth-largest cellular market in Asia – behind China, India, Indonesia and Japan – had more than 107 million mobile users in April, almost 65 per cent of the population.
“A committee of the cabinet has agreed in principle to launch 3G services as soon as possible without any conditions,” a senior official of the Ministry of Information Technology, which is handling the project, told Reuters.
The Economic Coordination Committee is expected to give the green light to the auction in the first week of August. The auctions are expected to be held in mid to late October, another official said.
The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the number of licences to be issued would depend on the availability of 3G spectrum. “For instance, if we have 30 Mhz, it could be three licences of 10 Mhz each. If we have 20 Mhz, then it will be two licences,” one official said.
Pakistan Telecomm-unication Authority (PTA) will advise the ministry about the available spectrum in August.
Among existing telecoms operators, Mobilink leads the market with 32.96 million subscribers, followed by Telenor at 26.06 million, according to PTA data.
Other operators include Ufone, Warid Telecom and Zong.
The officials did not say if the licences would be offered to the existing telecoms operators or include others. A PTA official said it would probably be only for those already operating in the country.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 29th, 2011.