The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has invited applications from Pakistani and foreign cellular mobile operators for 12.8 MHz paired in the 1800 MHz band and 15 MHz paired in the 2100 MHz band for technology-neutral Next Generation Mobile Services (NGMS).

The PTA has issued an Information Memorandum (IM) that details the rules, process, planned timelines, and other background information for prospective applicants to participate in the Spectrum Auction.

Spectrum Details

The Spectrum Auction is for the use of the spectrum from the internationally harmonized 1800 MHz and 2100 MHz bands.

The spectrum included in the Spectrum Auction comprises

  • 2×12.8 MHz in the 1800 MHz band;
  • 2×15 MHz (1960-1975 MHz/2150–2165 MHz) in the 2100 MHz band.

The 2 x 12.8 MHz of spectrum in the 1800 MHz band will be packaged as one block of 2×5 MHz and 39 blocks of 2×0.2 MHz. Applicants are subject to the spectrum cap of 30 MHz (40 percent of the total spectrum) across the 1800 MHz band.

The 2×15 MHz of spectrum in the 2100 MHz band will be packaged as three blocks of 2×5 MHz:

  • 2×5 MHz (1960-1965 MHz/2150-2155 MHz);
  • 2×5 MHz (1965-1970 MHz/2155-2160 MHz);
  • 2×5 MHz (1970-1975 MHz/2160-2165 MHz).

Spectrum Cap

In order to avoid asymmetric spectrum holdings and to ensure that all CMOs have a chance to standardize their spectrum holdings in the 1800 MHz band, a spectrum cap has been imposed in the 1800 MHz band to limit the amount of spectrum that can be acquired in the 1800 MHz band in the Spectrum Auction. This is set at 40 percent of all the spectrums in this band (2×30 MHz in total) while considering each CMO’s Existing Spectrum including sub-judice.

Given each CMO’s Existing Spectrum in the Band,

  1. Jazz will be able to bid on up to 2×5.2 MHz as it is currently using 2×24.8 MHz of the spectrum in the 1800 MHz band;
  2. Zong will be able to bid on up to 2×7.4 MHz as it is currently using 2×22.6 MHz of the spectrum in the 1800 MHz band (2×16 MHz of its licensed spectrum plus a temporary additional 2×6.6 MHz spectrum being sub-judice in a Court of Law); and
  3. Telenor and Ufone are not constrained by this spectrum cap, given that they each currently hold less than 2×10 MHz of 1800 MHz spectrum.

 

Timelines for the Spectrum Auction

The PTA reserves the right to determine and amend the overall timelines of the Spectrum Auction while taking into account all the circumstances prevailing at the specific time. In order to assist prospective applicants in the preparation of their applications, the table below provides an indication of the intended timelines.

S No Process Timeline (To/TI+No. of days)
1 Publication of Information Memorandum T0*
2 The consultation period on the Spectrum Auction rules and procedures as set out in the Information Memorandum T0 + [21]
3 Notification of changes to the Spectrum Auction rules and procedures, if any, and publication of any changes to the IM T0 + [26]
4 Information session for prospective applicants (last opportunity for prospective applicants to ask questions and get clarifications about the specifics of the Spectrum Auction), if required T0 + [28]
5 Deadline for prospective applicants to submit the Application Form and Sealed-Bid Form with Pre-Bid Deposits (Annex B and Annex E) T1 = T0 + [35] 

(till 4 pm Pakistan Standard Time)

6 The PTA notifies qualified applicant(s) and further informs all the qualified applicants about whether the Auction shall move to the Electronic Auction Stage or the PTA declares qualified applicants as Provisional Winners T1 + [3]
7 If the PTA proceeds with the Electronic Auction Stage, an information package containing confidential information and instructions to participate in the Electronic Auction Stage is provided to those qualified applicants eligible to participate in that stage T1 + [4]
8 Mock Clock Auction (1800 MHz), if required, for eligible qualified applicants T1 + [7]
9 Clock Auction bidding starts, if required T1 + [10]
10 Clock Auction bidding starts, if required [2] days after completion of the Clock Auction
11 SMRA Auction bidding starts, if required, for eligible qualified applicants [2] days after Mock SMRA Auction
12 Provisional Winners announced for both spectrum bands No more than [1] day after the completion of the Electronic Auction Stage, if required
13 Initial Spectrum Fees due from Provisional Winners for all Spectrum Blocks acquired in the Spectrum Auction (50% or 100% payment of the Initial Spectrum Fee) According to the schedule in Section 2.5 of this IM
14 The PTA, in consultation with the FAB, to issue a Rationalization Plan for the 1800MHz band to all the CMOs After receipt of all relevant Initial Spectrum Fee
15 Deadline for the CMOs to implement the Rationalization Plan for the 1800 MHz band Within 30 days of the PTA having published the Rationalization Plan
16 Grant of Licenses/Assignment of the right to use of the spectrum After having received 50% or 100% of the Initial Spectrum Fee and the implementation of the Rationalization Plan

 

*T0 (5 August 2021) is the date of the publication of the IM. These dates/timelines are subject to change as deemed necessary by the PTA.

Stage 1 of the Spectrum Auction (Application Form, Sealed-Bid Form, and Pre-bid Deposit)

In this stage, all the applicants will be required to provide information as per the given Application Form. All the applicants will also be required to submit an irrevocable Sealed-Bid Form along with their applications.

In the Sealed-Bid Form and subject to the rules set out in this IM, each applicant will be required to state their interest out of the following spectrum at the Base Price:

  • Product 1: 39 blocks of 2×0.2 MHz in 1800 MHz;
  • Product 2: One block of 2×5 MHz in 1800 MHz;

Three specific blocks of 2×5 MHz in 2100 MHz:

  • Block 9 (1960-1965 MHz / 2150-2155 MHz)
  • Block 10 (1965-1970 MHz / 2155-2160 MHz)
  • Block 11 (1970-1975 MHz / 2160-2165 MHz)

All the applicants must state their interest in Product 2 in 1800 MHz if they are interested in acquiring more than 2×4.8 MHz within the 1800 MHz band. They are also are subject to the spectrum cap of 30 MHz within the 1800 MHz band comprising existing spectrum holdings (including any sub-judice spectrum for the purpose of the spectrum cap only) and the spectrum available for the Auction.

Applicants will be required to submit a Pre-Bid Deposit at this stage for 20 percent of the cumulative Base Price for the blocks on which they have expressed their interest.

The information submitted by the applicants will be assessed by the PTA, and those considered suitable for participation and who have submitted the correct Pre-Bid Deposit will, as per the set timelines, be informed by the PTA that they are qualified applicants.

For all the remaining applicants (those that are not qualified applicants), the PTA will return the Pre-Bid Deposit and submitted information within 30 days of concluding the Spectrum Auction process.

 

The PTA will then assess the demand for the spectrum across the 1800 MHz band and 2100 MHz band in the Sealed-Bid Forms from all the qualified applicants. This is to determine whether the total demand for any Category in the Sealed-Bid Form exceeds the total spectrum available in that Category, as this determines the need to move to the Electronic Auction Stage for these Categories. While determining the demand for the 2100 MHz spectrum, the PTA will include any demand resulting from the Eligibility Adjustment in that band.

The Eligibility Adjustment is discussed in Section 3.5 as below.

  1. If the total demand for the spectrum in each Category in the Sealed-Bid Form matches or is less than the total spectrum available in that Category, the PTA will provisionally assign the 1800 MHz and 2100 MHz spectrum based on the Sealed-Bid to each Qualified Applicant at the Base Price (no Electronic Auction Stage is required).
  2. If the total demand in any Category (Product 1, Product 2, Block 9, Block 10, or Block 11) from all the qualified applicants exceeds the spectrum made available in that Category, the PTA will proceed to the Electronic Auction Stage. In that case, the PTA will notify the Qualified Applicants about the upcoming Electronic Auction Stage within three days.
    1. If there is excess demand for the 1800 MHz spectrum but no excess demand for blocks 9, 10, or 11 (after the Eligibility Adjustment, discussed below), blocks 9, 10, and 11 will be provisionally assigned at the Base Price, while the 1800MHz spectrum will be allocated using the Electronic Auction Stage. Equally, if there is excess demand for just one product in the 1800 MHz band (either Product 1 or Product 2), only the product with excess demand will be allocated using the Electronic Auction Stage while the other product (with no excess demand) will be provisionally assigned at the Base Price.
    2. Similarly, if there is no excess demand for Product 1 and Product 2 but there is excess demand for at least one Block in the 2100 MHz band (Blocks 9, 10, or 11), the PTA will proceed to provisionally assign the 1800 MHz spectrum at the Base Price and allocate the 2100 MHz spectrum using the Electronic Auction Stage.
    3. Finally, if there is excess demand for both the 1800 MHz and 2100 MHz spectrum, then the 1800 MHz and the 2100 MHz spectrum will be allocated using the Electronic Auction Stage (in separate and sequential electronic auctions, as set out further below).

Stage 2 of the Spectrum Auction (Electronic Auction Stage)

The Electronic Auction Stage will be conducted sequentially as:

  1. A Clock Auction for the 1800MHz spectrum;
  2. A Simultaneous Multi-Round Ascending Auction (SMRA) for the 2100MHz spectrum.

For the avoidance of doubt, a Qualified Applicant need not participate in the Clock Auction of the 1800 MHz spectrum in order to participate in the SMRA for the 2100 MHz spectrum, and vice versa.

 

Rationalization of 1800 MHz Spectrum

In line with the written consent given by all the CMOs and as per the Policy Directive, the PTA/FAB shall undertake a process for the Rationalization of the spectrum in the 1800 MHz band to achieve contiguity where feasible (the Rationalization Process).

The Rationalization Process will involve the entire spectrum in the 1800 MHz band and all the CMOs irrespective of their participation in the Auction. The Rationalization Process will be conducted in accordance with the timelines set out in Section 1.7 of this IM.

Under the Rationalization Process, the PTA will endeavor to group together in the 1800 MHz band, each CMO’s Existing Spectrum, and the auctioned spectrum.

This may involve a CMO’s Existing Spectrum changing from its current position, either up or down in the band.

Suppose one CMO has 2×8.8 MHz of the Existing Spectrum and it acquires 2×1.2 MHz in the Auction, the PTA will group its 2×8.8 MHz of Existing Spectrum adjacent to its 1.2 MHz of Auction Spectrum to make a contiguous block of 2×10 MHz.

Base Price

The Base Price for each Spectrum Block is detailed in Table 8. These Base Prices will be the Starting Prices for the Spectrum Blocks offered in the Auction. These are based on per MHz Base Prices (paired spectrum) as set out in the Policy Directive.

Base Price Expressed on a Per MHz basis (Paired Spectrum)

Spectrum Band USD 29 Million Spectrum Quantity Base Price
1800 MHz 2×1 MHz USD 31 million
2100 MHz 2×1 MHz USD 29 million

 

 

Overall, this means that the Spectrum Blocks that are available for Auction and outlined have the following Base Prices:

Spectrum Band Size Base Price
1800 MHz – Blocks in Product 1 2×0.2 MHz USD 6.2 million
1800 MHz – Blocks in Product 2 2×5.0 MHz USD 155 million
2100 MHz Blocks 2×5.0 MHz USD 145 million