Hopes for 3G auction rise with change in government

Published: May 16, 2013
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Industry expects PML-N to address issue of service suspension as well. DESIGN: CREATIVE COMMONS

Industry expects PML-N to address issue of service suspension as well. DESIGN: CREATIVE COMMONS

KARACHI: With the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz all set to form a new government at the Centre, the telecom industry shows optimism and expects the government to auction third generation mobile spectrum licences and address key issues like mobile service suspension and sale of new SIM cards.

“In their previous two tenures, the PML-N had always had business-friendly policies, which positively affected the corporate sector,” said Atifa Asghar, Director Corporate Communications and Responsibility of Telenor Pakistan. “We hope that their previous positive approach will continue in the future as well and business in general and telecom sector in particular will benefit hugely from their policies.”

The telecom sector contributed Rs133 billion or $1.3 billion to the national exchequer in fiscal year 2011-12, making it one of the highest tax-paying sectors. However, the multi-million-dollar sector has suffered financially from recent blackouts of mobile services and missed opportunities such as 3G auction, which has been delayed more than once.

“The two major issues encompassing the telecom sector that we would like the new government to address are introduction of 3G and network suspension,” Asghar said. “3G is the next natural step of evolution in the telecommunications industry.”

Pakistan is already one of the top performing telecoms markets in terms of reach, teledensity, call rates and product and service offerings, Asghar said. “With the advent of 3G, our country’s telecom performance will be further enhanced and strengthened and it will greatly enrich end-user experience,” she said.

Under the previous government, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority – the telecom regulator responsible for 3G licensing – failed thrice to hold the auction.

However, the PML-N claimed in its manifesto that it will move directly to 4G technology to ensure fast-track introduction of modern information and communication technology (ICT). It also said it will promote and facilitate the software industry to develop applications accessible through 4G and LTE networks.

The frequent mobile service blackout by the government is another major concern besetting the industry that loses millions every time cellphone services are suspended.

Network suspension is a growing challenge in the industry, according to Asghar. “Frequent suspensions during the past nine months have impacted the government and industry revenues, businesses and individual subscribers,” she said. “On the other hand, due to massive dependence on mobile phones, subscribers face huge inconveniences in carrying out daily personal and professional tasks.”

The industry is aware of the security situation in the country but the government should consult all the stakeholders and come up with a strategy that in the long term tackles the security concerns without adversely impacting the economy, the industry and the consumers, Asghar said.

For about five years, the Ministry of IT and Telecom has been without a minister while PTA has been going through a serious internal squabble among senior management recently. The new government will have to tackle this as well.

“The new government should appoint a minister who understands the issues facing the IT industry,” said Sikandar Naqi, Adviser to Zong CEO.

“The new government should have an effective regulator, which can successfully hold the much-delayed 3G auction.”

Published in The Express Tribune, May 16th, 2013.

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Reader Comments (12)

  • Nadir
    May 16, 2013 - 1:10AM

    Wonder how many US operators complained to the US government after the suspension of mobile services in Boston.

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  • someone
    May 16, 2013 - 1:38PM

    @Nadir:
    in pakistan the police is so inefficient that only thing a govt. can do i to turn off mobile networks.

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  • bajwa
    May 16, 2013 - 5:03PM

    Go for 4G…..3G is an old technology.

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  • MJ
    May 16, 2013 - 7:24PM

    @Nadir: The mobile service was not suspended in Boston after the bombing. It is an internet rumor that gained strength when the networks started blocking due to heavy call volume. All major US operators (AT&T, Verizon, T-mobile & Sprint) have denied that they were asked to shut down services in Boston. There is however a possibility that local jammers were used by law enforcement agencies in the immediate vicinity of the blast site to disable any further possible explosives set off by mobile phones. This possibility however cannot be verified because of its sensitive nature.

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  • IR
    May 17, 2013 - 2:10AM

    Transparency is key here, spectrum auctions and license grants are often unchecked and done under covers….

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  • usman khalid
    May 17, 2013 - 2:37PM

    I don’t think going directly to 4G would be a good choice. There will be less return of investment on 4G compared to 3G keeping in mind high cost of 4G. We in europe are still very much depended on 3G and people are not willing to pay high price for 4G service when all they want is still available through 3G. Secondly, i don’t think operators are as willing to go 4G directly as PMLN govt is.

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  • MJ
    May 17, 2013 - 8:24PM

    Now that the 4G technology is proven and being deployed efficiently everywhere in the world, it will make perfect sense to skip 3G and go directly to 4G. GSM technology provides a path directly from 2G to 4G. Since we are all eventually going to be using 4G in the future the savings will come from eliminating the incremental step of going from 2G to 3G to 4G. The government however may look at this as a money making opportunity and auction another spectrum band for 4G deployment. But that would just drive up the costs of handsets and base stations as they will require equipment to handle various bands. 4G also provides greater spectral efficiency, i.e., it can support more people and higher data speeds on a given amount of spectrum.

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  • Syed Ismail Shah
    May 23, 2013 - 11:43PM

    Dear Readers,
    I appreciate the sentiment of the people who say that we should go directly to 4G. However, we must understand the technicalities and the ground realities. The fact of the matter is that yes we have 4G LTE (which is pre-4G to be more precise) deployed in many countries of the world. However, another reality is that the dongles and phones that support LTE are very expensive. In Pakistan we already have between 10 to 15 Million phones that are 3G enabled. So as a technical person and having expertise in both 3G and LTE technologies (recognized by many countries except Pakistan), I would suggest that we go for the spectrum auction in a manner that we have the deployment of UMTS/HSPA+ as well as LTE at the same time. It may sound a little strange to many but I believe that we should provide insentives to deploy LTE like giving out the spectrum for LTE at a lower cost. I can continue on this topic and can provide advice to any one who is interested in more details. My e-mail address is: [email protected].

    Syed Ismail Shah, PhD

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  • Syed Ismail Shah
    May 23, 2013 - 11:49PM

    Dear Readers,
    I appreciate the sentiment of the people who say that we should go directly to 4G. However, we must understand the technicalities and the ground realities. The fact of the matter is that yes we have 4G LTE (which can be called pre-4G to be more precise) technologies deployed in many countries in the world. However, another ground reality is that the dongles and phones that support LTE are very expensive. In Pakistan we already have between 10 to 15 Million phones that are 3G enabled. So as a technical person and having expertise in both 3G and LTE technologies recognized by many countries except Pakistan, I would suggest that we go for the spectrum auction in a manner that we have the deployment of UMTS/HSPA+ as well as technologies at the same time. It may sound a little strange to many but I believe that we should give out the spectrum for LTE at a lower cost. I can continue on this topic and can provide advice to anyone interested. My e-mail address is: [email protected].

    Recommend

  • Jun 15, 2013 - 4:22PM

    Sarmad Ali Recommend

  • Jamshaid akhtar
    Jun 19, 2013 - 12:42PM

    Asalam-o-alaikum!i think 3g will be 1st step for pta or govt of pak,because many people have the hand set without 3g enable.the connection demand will be very low if 4g introduced, 4g will expansive packages on starting,3g packages comfortable for our nation.other angle 4g is the best policy to enable.most people have using mobiles in which gprs connection is not available.this would be problem .Recommend

  • Alamgeer
    Jun 23, 2013 - 9:40PM

    please do it fast whatever 3g or directly 4g…we are already far behind…

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