KARACHI: In all likelihood, Pakistan looks set to conduct the much-awaited and oft-delayed auction of spectrum for advanced-generation mobile services by March next year.
Optimism is prevailing across the telecom industry as government’s latest steps have done away with controversies so far.
Over the past few months, more than 160 countries have launched third-generation (3G) mobile services and the number of active 3G subscriptions has surpassed one billion, according to Parvez Iftikhar, an expert on information and communication technology.
By contrast, Pakistan, particularly the former government of Pakistan Peoples Party, ran into controversies in every single attempt to auction 3G mobile spectrum licences a matter of great national interest.
Even the current Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government could not take the process forward during the first three months in power.
The country has been trying to introduce 3G cellular services since 2006.
However, plans to launch the next generation technology ran into trouble despite repeated efforts, leaving the country behind regional countries - Afghanistan, Bangladesh and India, which have already rolled out 3G services.
The principle of auctioning spectrum for introducing 3G services in Pakistan, according to a government’s policy document, was laid down in the Mobile Cellular Policy 2004.
At that time, the telecom industry observed that the market was not ready for third-generation services and asked the government to delay the process requisite frequency was not available at the same time, according to the policy document.
First major breakthrough came in December 2011 when the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecom issued a policy directive to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) the telecom sector’s regulatory body responsible for the auction for the introduction of 3G services.