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ISLAMABAD: Economic instability and consumer affordability are the major challenges hindering launch of 5G in the country, says Omar Malik, Member Telecom, Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunications.

He stated this while speaking at a webinar on “Adopting 5G to Positively Impact Environment: A Roadmap for Pakistan” organised by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute, here on Wednesday.

He also said the Ministry was all set to launch Infrastructure Sharing Framework after the cabinet’s approval.

Initiatives like spectrum and infrastructure sharing will play a crucial role in improving connectivity, reducing network disruptions, and lowering environmental impacts.

Referring to a study conducted in collaboration with World Bank which revealed optic fibre penetration a key barrier, he informed that since 2020, the total deployment of fibre optic in Pakistan has increased from 124,000km to 190,000km.

Additionally he said that economic instability and consumer affordability are other challenges hindering launch of 5G in the country.

Brigadier Mohammad Yasin (retired), senior advisor emeritus, SDPI highlighted political and economic instability, higher tax on IT services, weak fibre optics infrastructure, expensive frequency spectrum, dearth of dollars and uneconomical smartphone prices as key challenges resulting in declining investor interest, deteriorating IT services, and delaying launch of 5G in Pakistan.

Khalid Khan, chairman, Central Asian Cellular Forum said that advancement to 3G and 4G had transformational impacts on other sectors including transport, fintech etc.

He emphasized human resources being the top exportable commodity and urged to promote competitive engineering skills to capture potential growth of global IT sector.

He encouraged government to focus on larger picture of connectivity through supportive policy interventions rather than perceiving them as revenue generating avenues.

Abdul Rehman Usmani, VP Network, Jazz stressed that rather than hastening 5G’s launch, the best approach is to develop use cases and sustainable business model to prevent consumers reverting to 4G due to limited utility. He stressed developing a conducive ecosystem through R&D centres, regulatory regime, cost-effective spectrum denominated in PKR.

Dr Fareeha Armughan, Research Fellow, SDPI said that 5G will lead to acceleration of modern financial services, cloud computing, AI; with banks already keen to shift to fast, touchless, and easy to use financial services over conventional banking.

There is no better tool than combining mobile and financial services for looping in the vulnerable communities in the economy and moving the needle on full circle of poverty alleviation.

Aslam Hayat, ICT Regulatory Expert highlighted that adoption of 5G offers potential advantages of energy efficiency, catalyze uptake of renewables, efficient resource management by promotion of AI, IoT and use of sensors etc., reduction in greenhouse emissions by adoption of smart technologies particularly in transport sector, and improvement in air quality.

However, he highlighted that these come with their disadvantages which include a sharp rise in electricity demand and consumption, increase in e-waste load when consumers will switch to latest 5G enabled devices and negative implications due on environment, biodiversity, habitats, and ecosystems due to infrastructure development.

Fawad Sarwar, Solutions Architect at Ericsson, Australia highlighted that telecom and IT contribute 1.4 percent to global greenhouse gas emissions but by 2030, economic and industrial digitalization will have out-sized influence of 50 percent emissions.

He elucidated that the use of sensors, artificial intelligence and IoT enabled systems can reduce emissions from construction and transport sectors. He stressed a three-pronged approach of sustainable network evolution, expanding and modernizing it and operating intelligently to break the energy curve and reduce environmental footprint.

Maryam Shabbir Abbasi, Research Coordinator at the University of Vermont highlighted that developed countries offer emission reduction success stories achieved by adoption of 5G enabled technologies in industries. She stressed for Pakistan 5G can enhance early warning systems, connectivity, intelligence, and information dissemination during climate disasters like the recent floods.

Dr Abid Qaiyum Suleri, Executive Director, SDPI stressed that penetration of one trillion interconnected devices is projected in the future and will increase lithium consumption by four times, and energy demand significantly.

He emphasized new self-energizing and energy harvesting techniques and capturing electro-magnetic waves produced from these interconnected devices through micro-antennas to meet energy demand.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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