Telenor Pakistan CEO Irfan Khan (pictured) expressed guarded optimism about the country’s digital vision, as the government moved ahead with reforms to lower tax burdens on consumers and operators, and increase spectrum availability.
In an online discussion with Julian Gorman, head of APAC at industry association GSMA, Khan said Pakistan lags in identifying spectrum as a lifeline for the government’s Digital Pakistan initiative, but acknowledged an upcoming auction is a step in the right direction.
Telenor doesn’t expect a lot in terms of spectrum availability of spectrum, but “at least it will ease some of the challenges” facing operators, Khan said.
Pakistan has around a third of the spectrum of Thailand and Malaysia, and a quarter of New Zealand, Saudi Arabia and the US.
Khan insisted the industry needs to restart conversation regarding the potential long-term economic value rather than the upfront value of spectrum, especially looking ahead to 5G. “We need to educate all the stakeholders and collaborate to build the ecosystem together”.
Khan noted the government recognised Pakistan is one of the most heavily taxed nations for telecoms services, adding Telenor was assured it would be handed some incentives in a finance bill due to be submitted next week to kickstart the sector.
Khan noted Pakistan’s demographics are a reason for optimism. There are 100 million people aged under 30 years-old, a highly educated population and the nation is a leader in freelance software development.
More than 90 per cent of people access the internet through a mobile device because of a lack of fixed infrastructure. “That is not going to change, which puts a huge responsibility on the shoulders” of operators.
Khan argued one of the main reasons the country’s economic growth lags others in the region is the low participation of women in the economy, contributing 18 per cent of GDP.
He said Telenor is trying to address the many reasons for this at multiple levels, but noted its main push is to ensure connectivity is affordable and convenient to access for all.Subscribe to our daily newsletter Back