China Mobile Pakistan (CMPak), which operates under the Zong brand, complained to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) that interference in the 1.8GHz band it acquired in the auction last year is causing serious quality of service issues.

Zong, Pakistan’s third largest operator with a 22 per cent market share, spent $210 million on 10MHz of the 4G spectrum, but the 1.8MHz frequency is also used by some versions of DECT 6.0 wireless phones, which causes interference in Zong’s 4G services, ProPakistan reported. The PTA has banned the use of cordless phones operating at that spectrum and has fined importers, but the issue remains a problem for Zong.

A Zong representative said it has asked the regulator to either eliminate the interference caused by the DECT phones or allocate it a different 4G frequency. The operator said it can’t offer quality 4G service until the situation, which is impacting its ability to attract new customers and revenue, is fixed.

The PTA is unlikely to act quickly on the matter given that the Minister for State for Telecom and IT recently hinted at another round of 3G/4G spectrum auctions in the coming months. One 10MHz block of 1.8GHz spectrum went unsold in last year’s spectrum auction, which was the last 3G sale in Asia. The government at the last minute added a 10 per cent tax on spectrum assets obtained in the auction.

In the current environment, with a high tax burden on operators and modest growth, sources say operators are not interesting in paying out in another auction. Only second ranked Telenor is said to be profitable.