ANALYSIS: Critical months ahead for Pakistan’s telecoms market

19 May 2014 |

Pakistan’s government has been urged to bring clarity to cross-border connectivity regulation, following the results of the country’s recent 3G and 4G spectrum auctions.

One of the largest countries in Asia not to yet offer 3G services, Pakistan finally auctioned off 3G and 4G licences in April, after the process had been severely delayed amid legal challenges and allegations of corruption.

The auctions failed to hit the Government’s revenue target of $2 billion, however, with 3G licences raising $903 million and 4G licences raising $210 million.

Successful winners of the 3G licences included China Mobile (Zong), Russia’s Mobilink, Norway’s Telenor, and UFone, which is jointly owned by the Pakistan government and Etisalat.

Zong was the only successful bidder in the 4G spectrum auction, with one block of 4G spectrum remaining unsold. With broadband penetration in the nation estimated to be as low as less than 2%, there is expected to be a huge surge in the adoption of mobile broadband in the coming years.

To support the rapid roll-out of 3G and 4G services, significant enhancements are required to the nation’s telecoms infrastructure. As a result, Capacity can exclusively reveal that the Axiata Group, which owns operator Multinet Pakistan, is planning to launch a mobile tower provider in the country in Q4.

The new company will leverage Multinet’s 11,000 km optical-fibre network that connects 110 cities in Pakistan.

Just as critical to the development of Pakistan’s telecoms market is the first draft of a new telecoms policy that is expected to be revealed in May. Multinet’s senior EVP and CSO, Rashid Shafi says the policy will be vital in bringing clarity to cross-border connectivity, which he claims has been offcially suspended by the Ministry of Information Technology (MoIT) since February 2012.

“This is hampering the growth of telecoms business in Pakistan. The government should take immediate steps to issue the transit policy,” said Shafi.