(ISLAMABAD) – On Wednesday, an official auction for 3G and 4G spectrums was conducted at Marriott Hotel by Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), country’s official telecom body. While wide spectrums are usually considered as government’s tangible or intangible assets, it seems that Pakistan is finally jumping on the the 3G/4G bandwagon after a lot of hype and years of delayed auction progress, but in the end with an astonishing auction result figure.
Most of the country’s telcos participated via an online auction system. The auctioning model, Simultaneous Multiple Round Ascending (SMRA), was quite similar to what was observed in her neighboring country, where 3G and 4G auctions have given a great boost to India’s Department of Telecommunications (DoT) already.
The Spectrum Auction of Next Generation Mobile Services (NGMS) was conducted for 8 rounds in total, in which altogether USD 1.1 billion was bid by four companies; all foreign. USD 903 million and USD 210 million from 3G and 4G spectrums were raised, respectively. However, after the 4th round, there was no progress seen from any bidder.
The final Spectrum Auction results were declared during PTA auction concluding ceremony by Chairman PTA, Dr. Ismail Shah, and live on their website at 7:40 pm (UTC +5).
Zong (a China Mobile company) and Mobilink (owned by Russian Vimplecom) won the auction of 10MHz for 3G spectrum each, while Telenor (Norwegian) and Ufone (partially owned by Etisalat) won 5MHz for 3G spectrum each. Furthermore, Zong also qualified to get one of the two 10MHz for 4G licenses. The other 10MHz for 4G license couldn’t be sold, and decision of conducting its auction again will be made on a later date, which is undisclosed at the moment. The auction policy clearly stated that a 4G license will only be available to bid, if and only if a 3G is also won in the same auction. Bidding stats showed that Ufone was in favor to obtain the other 4G license too, however 10MHz for 3G was not won by it.
Soon after the auction, the four telcos were seen welcoming the new technology. Dr. Zhao Peng, Chief Commercial Officer (CMPak – Zong), said, “we will deploy the world’s leading mobile technology in Pakistan to provide the fastest mobile internet and best 3G/4G network in Pakistan. We are the fastest growing mobile network in the past three years and more than half of new mobile customers select Zong. The auction result fully shows the long term commitment of Zong to Pakistan and the willingness to contribute in the growth of the country.”
Realizing the upcoming massive 3G adaptability by its users, Mobilink launched a Phone Trade Program where customers can exchange their old cell phones with the latest 3G supported smartphones of their choice by paying the differential cost. Aamer Manzoor, Head of Data at Mobilink on the launch of the Phone Trade Program said, “Mobilink has invested more than USD 4.3 billion in its operations and network modernization in Pakistan. We are the country’s largest 3G-ready network and the Phone Trade Program is in line with our strategy to improve customers’ experience by providing the latest technology and best voice and data offers. I am confident that this program will equip our customers with the best devices, empower them to use future technology and encourage them to make the most out of Mobilink’s best data offers on the go.’’
Telenor being the 2nd largest cellular operator in the country has been testing its network over the last few days, where users were excited to experience 3G Internet speeds. “We are very pleased to have won the license to launch 3G services in Pakistan and be a frontrunner of the fraternity that is taking Pakistan to a whole new level of technological advancement. Telenor Pakistan believes that access to communication technology can contribute immensely towards empowering societies,” Lars Christian Iuel, Chief Executive Officer, Telenor Pakistan said in a message. “We’re grateful to Government of Pakistan for addressing all concerns of telecom operators before the auction process and ensure Telenor Pakistan’s full support in their vision to bring ICT headway to Pakistan,” he added.
The new 3G section on Ufone’s website states, “We know that the successes of today are never sufficient for tomorrow; that’s exactly why technology and innovation go hand-in-hand at Ufone. By acquiring a 3G and empowering our systems with mobile Internet that rivals the speed of light, Ufone is truly the network of tomorrow.” However, on their social media platforms, Ufone says that Pakistan’s market is not yet ready for 4G.
Country’s Finance Minister, Ishaq Dar, pointed out that in past it was speculated that the 3G license would be auctioned for USD 0.5 billion. However, he was surprised to sell it for over a whopping 1.1 billion US dollars, which is more than double the target goal set by the ministry a while ago. Furthermore, 4G license would benefit the government with $0.5 billion in total.
All the winning bidders have to deposit their winning bid’s 50% amount as Earnest Deposit within 30 days, and the remaining 50% in 5 years. Licenses will be issued for 15 years to the winning bidders.