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Express Tribune

Published Date: Feb 24, 2012

ALREADY LATE, FURTHER DELAY IN 3G AUCTION TO COST NATIONAL ECONOMY DEARLY

Delay in the auction of 3G/4G licenses is hindering growth in the telecom sector, which in turn means less jobs for youth and losses to the national economy. This was said by an information and communication technology expert on Thursday, said an SDPI press release.
Discussing the subject at the 57th meeting of Sustainable Development Policy Institute’s (SDPI) study group on internet and communication technologies in Islamabad, the experts also urged the government to focus on setting obligatory performance benchmarks instead of merely focusing on the revenue generated from the licenses’ auction.
They suggested that the government should make it mandatory for successful bidders to adequately invest and expand the sector as part of a long-term commitment to telecommunications in Pakistan.
The experts – ranging from academia to telecom industry to consultants and practitioners – lamented the government’s inability to introduce 3G even though the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) was ready to roll it out three years ago. Even now, as they mull over delaying the auction from end of March, other countries, including India, are already moving on to 4G.
Salman Ansari, CEO Telecommunication Consultants, said the future of mobile telecommunications would be dominated by data services (3G and 4G technologies) and voice would be “just an additional component”. Thus the government should switch over to 3G at the earliest.
Sharing global technology trends, he said that growth in fixed line broadband is shrinking whereas share of wireless broadband is persistently on the rise. He said currently there is confusion and lack of clarity in Pakistan over adopting 3G technology or leapfrogging directly to 4G technologies. Ansari believes the best solution for Pakistan is a hybrid approach, with 3G mobile broadband to optimise current assets before moving towards new and further advanced systems, network radio interfaces and spectrum.
He termed “National IT & Telecom Policy 2005” outdated and called for a coherent national action plan. He cautioned that without proper homework, desperate moves to switch to 3G may lead to failure.
Shahid Mahmood, CEO Interactive Group of Companies, said that further delay in 3G auction will adversely impact the economic growth potential of the telecom sector.
Redefining the 3G technologies in macro-economic context, he said that increasing the broadband speed leads to economic gains, as every 10% increase in broadband penetration increases the GDP growth rate by around 1%.
He said around 80 new jobs are created for every 1,000 new broadband connections in Pakistan. He called for identification of additional spectrum to enable broadband technology deployments.
Dr Ijaz Gilani, Chairman Gallop Pakistan, presided over the proceedings.