Body formed to review 5G Strategic Plan

Committee will propose incentives, oversee spectrum auction process

Zafar Bhutta January 27, 2022


The government has formed a high-powered committee to approve the 5G Strategic Plan and oversee the process of releasing the next generation technology and spectrum auction.

The committee will propose incentives as well for the release of 5G spectrum, which may be included in the Finance Bill 2022.

The Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication has planned to roll out 5G in 2023. Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), the regulating body, will hold the 5G spectrum auction.

According to sources, the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the cabinet approved the constitution of Broad-based International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT)/ 5G Technology Advisory Committee.

The committee comprises IT and Telecom Division secretary, Law and Justice Division secretary, PTA chairman, Frequency Allocation Board executive director and IT ministry’s member telecom (committee secretary).

The ECC also set terms of reference of the committee under which it would perform its functions.

The committee was tasked to review the available and used mobile spectrum in Pakistan vis-a-vis global spectrum utilisation and submit a clear way forward and plan for the optimum use of this scarce and valuable resource.

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It will review and approve the 5G Strategic Plan to enable the launch of 5G services at the right time in the country in consultation with all stakeholders including the telecom operators. The committee will also examine and finalise telecom reforms and incentives to promote the adoption of IMT/ 5G technology ecosystem and ensure that those are reflected in the Finance Bill 2022.

The committee was tasked to review a market assessment report and approve the way forward based on recommendations of a reputed consultant hired by the PTA for auction design/ details of investment-friendly IMT/ 5G spectrum to maximise spectrum utilisation in line with the “Digital Pakistan” vision.

It will make recommendations for approval of policy directives of the federal government for the release of IMT/ 5G spectrum in Pakistan. It will also oversee the spectrum auction/ release process to be undertaken by the PTA.

The ECC considered a summary submitted by the IT ministry titled “Constitution of Broad-based International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT)/ 5G Technology Advisory Committee” and approved the proposal.

Industry officials point out that Pakistan’s current 4G reach is already limited, therefore, it will not be easy for the government to roll out 5G technology.

It may take a few more years to execute the plan and the government may miss the target of introducing 5G in 2023.

Mobile spectrum is already available in Pakistan but telecom operators did not show much interest in a recent auction due to the dispute over submission of bids.

Telecom operators wanted to quote their offers in rupees whereas the government invited bids in dollars. Consequently, all key players, except for Ufone, stayed away from the auction of additional spectrum.

The World Bank also said in a recent report that Pakistan was not ready for 5G as there were a number of factors that should be addressed to facilitate the market.

It pointed out that the lack of large contiguous blocks of affordable spectrum and broader access to the fibre backhaul were also the bottlenecks.

Another issue was the unavailability of affordable 5G smartphones and other devices on a large scale, which were also major challenges for the 5G market.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 27th, 2022.

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