With the increasing engagement of diversified content on social media and various streaming apps and websites, the consumption of Mobile data by an average Pakistani has grown by a staggering 414% from 2016 to 2018.

According to a study on spectrum management released by Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), the mobile data traffic in Pakistan increased to 1.75 Gb/month/user in June 2018 as compared to 0.34 Gb/month/user in September 2016

The consistent growth in the number of users and viewership of the content will stand Pakistan at par with developed economies in the next five years.

The country is expected to see exponential growth of data traffic over the next five years. With greater availability of content, applications and devices now as compared to a few years ago, Pakistan will be reaching similar levels as countries like Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and Thailand, the study added.

Overall, the mobile data traffic grew 165% in 2017 to 69 Petabytes (PB) and 86% in 2018 to 128 Petabytes (PB) in Pakistan with the users of mobile internet surging to over 84 million by end of August 2020.

The growth in data traffic is closely correlated to the amount of spectrum required. Cellular mobile operators in different countries will require different amounts of the spectrum depending on the number of operators and the density of urban areas.

Pakistan should plan to have at least 400 MHz by 2021 for planning purposes. Should Pakistan aspire to be the early adopter of 5G, more spectrum will be required. Several operators in other markets have started to investigate 5G capabilities through technical trials and are working alongside their equipment suppliers intending to implement 5G in the early part of the 2020s.

Pakistan needs to plan to ensure that the required spectrum is available to support trials and eventually commercial services. Between now and 5G launch, operators will be looking for spectrum to support the growth of data traffic as well as to offer faster Long-Term Evolution (LTE) speeds through carrier aggregation. Moreover, with the need to maintain Quality of Service (QoS) standards imposed by PTA, operators will have to either add smaller cells and/or acquire more spectrum.

At present, the spectrum allocated to mobile services for cellular networks includes 850 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz and 2100 MHz with a total of 80 x 2 MHz available. Of which, 128 x 2 MHz has been assigned to operators.