The timely rollout of 5G mobile phone connectivity is contingent on political stability in the country, which has already wasted two months and may delay the launch of services.
This was confirmed by top officials in the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication (MoITT) while talking exclusively with ProPakistani.
The previous government had planned to auction the 5G spectrum in the country by March 2023 at the latest, with the initial launch in the metropolises. However, political instability wasted nearly two months and affected the initial plan, which was confirmed by the federal Minister for IT&T, Syed Amin Ul Haque.
When asked about the launch of 5G by the end of March 2023, he said that the auction will be held before the general elections in the country.
Top officials at the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) said that the question of the timeline for the 5G auction should be directed at the MoITT
The official further stated, “if it is a priority item for the new government and the telecom industry, then the Authority can do the spectrum auction before the election.
CEO Jazz, Aamir Ibrahim, remarked that 5G will hardly make any business case in the next two years because less than one percent of local consumers can afford such handsets. He said that people think that better internet will be provided once 5G is launched in the country but it could be provided with 4G even now by government interventions for greater propagation.
The government has revealed that 4G coverage is considered a pre-requisite for the launch of 5G and 5G services can be deployed in areas where 4G services have already been provided.
Ibrahim commented that 15 percent of the population currently has no telecom services at all and should be focused on first.
Official documents revealed that the government is planning to launch 5G in the country and the MoITT is in the process of finalizing policy guidelines for 5G in consultation with the PTA/Frequency Allocation Board (FAB) and other stakeholders. However, no consulting services have been procured so far for the said purpose.
The documents also showed that the PTA had not incurred any expenditure as no consulting services have been procured so far. The previous government had planned to launch 5G services in the country in the first quarter of 2023.
The MoITT has evaluated seven bands for the adoption of 5G services in the country.
It is currently assessing the available options for the timely launch of 5G services in Pakistan, as per the official documents.
In this connection, the following bands are being evaluated for the adoption of 5G services as low bands, mid bands, and high bands:
- 700 MHz
- 2.3 GHz
- 2.6 GHz
- 3.5 GHz
- MiIIi8meter waveband
- C-Band (3.6-4.2) GHz
- Unlicensed Backhaul Frequency bands (P2P & P2MP)
In consideration of these bands, the ministry has requested the FAB to share the current status and availability of all the 5G spectrum in the above-identified frequency bands.
Cellular operators are continuously expanding their networks and Pakistan has 90 percent teledensity with 89 percent mobile penetration. The total number of mobile subscribers is 193.4 million. These numbers are continuously increasing. All the cellular mobile operators (CMOs) are working on expanding 4G coverage nationwide as per the license conditions.
Approximately, 60 percent of the population is covered with 4G coverage. The new rollout conditions have been imposed on operators’ licenses to increase the pace of the 4G rollout in Pakistan. Additionally, population-based rollout obligations are introduced to provide 4G coverage to the maximum population of Pakistan. However, network expansion and smartphone adoption are impacted by the heavy tax regime, which needs to be reviewed by the government.
4G coverage is considered a prerequisite for the launch of 5G, and 5G services can be deployed in areas where 4G services have already been provided. Cellular operators are obliged to extend 4G coverage as per the license conditions and charge consumers on the basis of data used/consumed by the subscribers irrespective of the technology (2G/3G/4G).
All the CMOs are charging the same tariffs/offering uniform packages for 2G/3G/4G services and there is no differentiation between the charging mechanisms.