The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) announced it will hold an auction on 13 June for 2x10MHz of 850MHz spectrum, which was unsold in an auction two years ago.
The government ordered PTA in March to hold the sale by mid-June. The finance ministry has put pressure on PTA to hold the auction, but the sale was postponed twice last year after all five operators said they would not participate.
The push comes despite a report in December from a consultant, hired by the telecoms regulator, that found the market was not ready for another auction. It reported mobile operators are struggling with low margins and aren’t interested in investing in the spectrum within the next 12 months. The operators also complained about high taxes, low return on investments and weak economic growth.
Pakistan’s Finance Minister last month approved a proposal to auction off the 850MHz band before holding an auction for the 1.8GHz spectrum, which was also unsold in the 4G sale in 2014.
The reserve price for the 850MHz block was set at $395 million. Some operators reportedly have expressed preliminary interest in participating in the auction, because the Mobilink-Warid merger, which was recently approved, has altered the competitive landscape to some extent. But beside Telenor, one of the few profitable operators in the country, it’s unknown how widespread that interest is.