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ISLAMABAD: The government has sufficient spectrum to offer for any future spectrum auction for NGMS in Pakistan; however, Cellular Mobile Operators (CMOs) are taking cautious approach due to economic challenges and uncertainty in the market regarding the launch of 5G, well-placed sources revealed to Business Recorder.

An official said that the government has spectrum in all ITU bands earmarked for 5G, i.e., 700, 2100, 2300, 2600, and 3300 MHZ and above bands which are suitable for 5G. The same can be presented for auction envisaging technology neutral, i.e., for enactment of 4G in 2100, 2300, and 2600, and utilisation of same for 5G as well in the country with limited roll out.

Official documents revealed the government has assigned 30 MHz in 2100 band while 15 MHZ additional is made available for auction. Further, only 5MHz is assigned in 2300 band, while 95 MHz is available.

LCs issue: CMOs likely to get force majeure for new projects

The government has 54 MHz in hand in the 2600 band where 140 MHz is in litigation and government hopes to get it released early. Three bands are being considered to be the most suitable for enhancing 4G, as well as, launch of 5G in the country, whereas, remaining make best use for FWA use case for 5G where government has 115 MHz in 3300-3600 band while 185 MHz has been assigned.

The ministry has also drafted “Framework for Frequency Spectrum re-farming” to manage the spectrum dynamically and make it available for newer applications such as 4G, 5G, broadband wireless access, digital broadcasting, etc.

As per the Telecom Policy 2015 section 8.5.1, spectrum will be re-farmed where its current use is not in the best social and economic interests of Pakistan, it is underutilised, used inefficiently or its use is inconsistent with international allocations. Incumbent users/ licensees, as per the details of this framework, will vacate their spectrum assignments in a particular band either partially or completely so that the band may be allocated to other users.

Spectrum reframing is a combination of administrative, financial and technical measures aimed at removing equipment of the existing frequency assignments either completely or partially from a particular frequency band. The frequency band may then be allocated to the same or different services.

However, the country is facing serious financial crunch coupled with Letters of Credit (LCs) issue and resulting in delay of telecom services-related projects implementation.

The limited facility of LCs is insufficient for the telecom sector as it is causing a hurdle in the import of equipment for upgrading mobile networking, besides resulting in a delay in projects for the provision of 4G services, said officials in the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecom.

“Even if government launches 5G in the country, how telecom operators will meet the required capacity upgradation,” said the official, adding that government is monitoring the situation while operators are also opted for cautious approach.

All the CMOs had requested the Universal Service Fund (USF) for delaying 10 new projects of around Rs8 billion to be implemented in un-served and under-served areas of the country.

Official sources revealed that the CMOs had written a letter to the USF and requested for delaying projects as they are facing serious problems in imports due to restrictions and non-opening of LCs. According to a clause in the USF agreement - force majeure -a USF service provider shall be excused, in accordance with the USF services and subsidy agreement, from certain failures to perform its obligations under the USF Services and Subsidy Agreement if an event of force majeure has prevented the performance of the obligations.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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