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ISLAMABAD: The Ministry of Finance will finalise incentives, which would be reflected in the Financial Bill 2022 to enable the 5G technological ecosystem and commercial launch by 2023.

The Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication in a draft on the “5G Strategic Plan and Policy Guideline,” has rolled out its tentative plan for launching 5G technology in Pakistan.

The government has set a target to launch 5G commercially in the first quarter of 2023 in the country.

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) will complete various stages before commercial launch, including the issuance of a strategic plan, the hiring of the consultant for the auction process, finalisation of policy directives by 2022-end, and the finalisation of incentives in the upcoming finance bill.

The ministry updated its plans after feedback and consultation with the market players and various ministries and authorities in this regard. The spectrum assignment shall continue to be technology-neutral. The MoIT&T may review the Right of Way policy to facilitate telecom network deployment.

The MoIT&T shall finalise the Spectrum Re-farming Framework for IMT bands after recommendations/consultation from the PTA, the PEMRA, and the FAB. The process of spectrum refarming shall be realized through a policy directive and Spectrum Refarming Committee comprising MoIT, FAB, PTA/PEMRA, and incumbent users, in line with the Telecom Policy 2015.

All relevant stakeholders, including MoIT&T, MoF, PTA, and FAB, to work in parallel for conducting the spectrum auction in 2023, the draft stated.

For efficient utilization of the IMT spectrum and timely launch of commercial 5G ecosystem in Pakistan, improvement of mobile broadband services, phase-wise availability will be made for at least 840 MHz.

The utilization of IMT in low and mid-bands (including the currently licensed spectrum) will be made available by the end of 2024 or the first half of 2025 (i.e. after the expiry of WLL licenses by 2024) may be planned as per best practices.

In this regard, maximum possible spectrum bandwidth shall be made available in the following IMT spectrum bands which are already approved by the FAB for the re-farming subject to the process of re-farming as per Section 8.5 of the Telecom Policy 2015: (B28/n28) 700 MHz, (B40/n40) 2.3 GHz (B41/n41) 2.6 GHz – efforts to clear litigation to be expedited, (B42-43, B52/n78) 3.5 GHz – 3300 MHz – 3415MHz is available; 3415 – 3600 MHz be made available after completion of re-farming and expiry of WLL Licenses in 2024.

Available spectrum in (B3/n3) 1800 MHz and (B1/n1) 2100 MHz mmWave bands (n257, n258, and n261, etc) may be made available while its use shall be subject to market demand assessment.

Frequency Allocation Board (FAB) shall make the maximum possible interference-free bandwidth of the above spectrum. Efforts should be made for expeditious resolution of respective court cases by MoIT&T, PTA, FAB, and PEMRA. Attorney General Office and Ministry of Law & Justice shall provide all support for the vacation of these IMT bands for inclusion in Spectrum Auction planned in early 2023.

To enable the 5G technological ecosystem, the Ministry of Finance, in consultation with MoIT&T, PTA, FAB, and any other relevant stakeholders, will finalize incentives be reflected in the Financial Bill 2022 included:

Tax rebate, tax rationalization, and elimination of duty tariff on import of all components of high end 4G and 5G devices (smartphones, IoT devices, and CPEs) across all slabs to promote local manufacturing of high end 4G and 5G devices, including handsets and customer premises equipment (CPE), 2G handsets (CBU) import shall be banned.

Duty-free IMT/5G network-ready equipment imports to facilitate 5G readiness and mobile broadband to support wider mobile broadband and 5G networks deployment. Special incentives for global Telecom equipment vendors to establish assembly and production lines in Pakistan to promote local assembly of IMT/5G and IoT ecosystem devices including chipsets.

Licensee shall establish at least one 5G Innovation and test center/lab to scale up 5G ecosystem for startups and entrepreneurship activities at their own cost for citizens. The facility shall be free of charge for academia and research purposes at the government’s designated institute all over Pakistan within two years of the grant of license.

Extensive non-commercial 5G trials (mobile and fixed) shall be supported. Trials may include the establishment of 5G hotspots in academic institutions, incubation centers, research organizations, etc. Existing training programs within MoIT&T/Ignite should incorporate digital skills that support the 5G use-case discovery process.

The MoIT&T and the PTA shall lead 5G awareness and orientation campaigns for other ministries and departments (including Science and Technology, Education, Health, Agriculture, etc) to enable them to develop coordinated policies and use cases relevant to mobile broadband and 5G. The MoIT&T and the PTA, along with the Ministry of Health, Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency, and other stakeholders, should engage in a public education campaign in relation to 5G, reassuring the public about the safety of the technology.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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