Due to obvious economic problems like import restrictions, fuel shortages, PKR depreciation, and higher spectrum fees, mobile companies have expressed a lack of interest in 5G technology in the near future, which appears to have delayed the launch of 5G network services in the country.
The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) informed the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication of these reasons for the anticipated delay in the adoption of 5G technology, according to an official document obtained by ProPakistani.
The paper recalls that the IT ministry released a draught set of 5G policy guidelines for stakeholder engagement in December 2021. The ministry provided PTA with feedback in April 2022. The telecom regulator assessed the Pakistani market’s readiness for 5G in light of the feedback it had received, and it found that cellular mobile operators (CMOs) had shown little enthusiasm for the impending introduction of the technology.
The PTA reportedly received the following arguments from CMOs as significant roadblocks to the rollout of 5G:
- Uncertain economic situation, import restrictions, an abrupt rise in fuel and electricity prices, PKR depreciation, high load-shedding, and increasing inflation restricting CMOs from properly planning investment in relation to 5G
- 5G spectrum affordability is considered a major challenge. Operators are requesting reasonable spectrum fees and relaxation in payment terms and license obligations
- Taxation relief, ROW policies, low 4G penetration, 5G devices affordability, spectrum availability (exact bandwidth) along with the price in PKR and payment terms clarity
- Facilitation from the government to improve business sustainability of the telecom sector by giving incentives to the industry
The report notes that 4G penetration in Pakistan is at 55.6 percent, while the fibre penetration rate to towers (towers that are connected with fiber) is at 11.4 percent, as the government mulls policies on whether it wants to introduce 5G for revenue or socioeconomic development. According to the Mobile Connectivity Index 2021, which was cited in the report, Pakistan lagged Bangladesh and India in terms of mobile connectivity as of June 2022.
Telecom operators have stressed increasing 4G penetration for a successful 5G launch. They said there should be maximum spectrum availability, especially in key 5G bands of 2300 (n40), 2500 (n41), and 3500 (n78) MHz at affordable prices and payment terms. The operators requested relaxation in 5G spectrum usage terms and conditions and license obligations as per global practices, including an affordable device ecosystem for smartphones, routers, and wearables by reducing taxation was fundamental for a successful 5G launch. They also asked for support from the government to resolve RoW issues which are creating hurdles in fiberization.
The report said Pakistan needs to materialize its 5G award plan at the earliest. The government must clearly identify its objectives for the launch of 5G be it increasing broadband proliferation, overall socio-economic development, or revenue generation.