The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) granted Telenor 2x10MHz of 850MHz spectrum for the base price of $395 million, with the operator making the only bid for the 4G spectrum that was unsold in an auction in 2014.
Three of the country’s four largest operators — Mobilink, Ufone and China Mobile’s Zong — did not participate in the auction. Telenor, the number two player, is only the second player in the country to secure 4G airwaves after Zong acquired spectrum in 2014. The spectrum licence will be awarded within 30 days of payment.
Pakistan’s finance minister in April 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 government ordered PTA in March to hold the sale by mid-June. The sale was postponed twice last year after all five major operators (including Warid, which is set to merge with Mobilink) said they would not participate.
The push to hold auctions this year comes despite a report from a consultant, hired by the telecoms regulator last year, that found the market was not ready for another auction. It said operators are struggling with low margins and high taxes and aren’t interested in investing in the spectrum within the next 12 months.
The government had budgeted raising PKR65 billion ($620 million) from auctioning 3G and 4G spectrum in fiscal 2015-16, but lowered that to PKR45 billion, Business Recorder reported. One 4G licence remains unsold, which aims to sell for PKR75 billion in the next fiscal year.
Pakistan’s 3G and 4G subscriber base more than doubled over the past nine months to 27.87 million as the country’s nine operators added more than one million high-speed mobile connections per month, according to the government’s Economic Survey.