ISLAMABAD: The incoming government, led by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, is going to face a host of challenges immediately after coming to power in the next few days.
Among major tasks in a variety of areas, it will have to pay special attention to promoting information technology, particularly the introduction of next generation 5G technology.
During the tenure of previous Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government, the cabinet had approved in September last year the launch of 5G technology with directive to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to start testing the new technology in market before its expected commercial availability after 2020.
The entire world is transforming with rapid technological advancements and almost every country is striving to adopt new technology as quickly as possible. It is said that a major reason behind the escalating US-China trade dispute is the scramble to win the $12-trillion technology market.
Beijing has laid ambitious plans to become the world leader in artificial intelligence by 2030. It may not be an exaggeration if the trade dispute is called a technology war as US President Donald Trump considers Chinese companies as a bigger threat in that area.
The next generation 5G technology will allow people to download data in seconds. It will be a special tool to connect billions of internet users and devices as well as help realise the dream of smart cities and provide vital support to the plan of bringing driverless cars to roads.
Mainland China, the world’s largest smartphone market, expects total investments in 5G mobile communication networks to reach $411 billion during the period 2020 to 2030.
China’s telecom major Huawei Technologies is in the race to become a global leader in 5G technology and has signed commercial deals with big telecom operators across Europe and Asia. It has inked 25 memoranda of understanding with telecom operators to conduct trials of 5G equipment, according to media reports.
The company has been able to keep a steady growth momentum in the first half of 2018 with revenue reaching 325.7 billion yuan ($47.6 billion) despite some slowdown in the global telecom and smartphone market.
The trade row between the US and China over winning the market may spread to Pakistan as well. China has a strong presence in Pakistan in the wake of $60-billion Pakistan-China Economic Corridor (CPEC). As part of CPEC, Caretaker Prime Minister Nasirul Mulk inaugurated an optical fibre cable link between the two countries recently which would provide land-based connectivity.
The owner of this cable is the Special Communication Organisation (SCO) of Pakistan and Huawei was the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractor.
Huawei may also play a leading role in introducing 5G technology in Pakistan. However, according to industry sources, 5G is more expensive than 4G, therefore, the incoming government may take some time in introducing the technology in the country.
Officials point out that the existing 3G/4G mobile broadband technologies have been gaining momentum continuously since their launch in mid-2014 and the demand for data services has been growing along with the broadband subscriber base that has now crossed 56 million.
The Telecom Policy 2015 not only outlines measures for early commercial adoption of futuristic technologies, but it is also aimed at promoting an environment that is conducive for research, development, testing and trial of new technologies.
The next big evolution globally in the area of mobile broadband is 5G that will offer attractive data rates and considerably enhance the experience and application of next generation technology.
It is expected that the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) will approve 5G standards in 2019. Based on the evolving standards, a number of trials and tests are being undertaken around the globe.
Now, it will be a big task ahead for the incoming PTI-led government to push the PTA to put to test the 5G technology in Pakistan. Huawei is already present here and may facilitate in this regard.
The commercial operation of 5G technology will bring a boom to the IT sector and the new government may take some initiatives for its successful deployment.
The writer is a staff correspondent
Published in The Express Tribune, August 6th, 2018.