Having failed to find a buyer, Pakistan’s Warid Telecom is to invest $470 million over the next five years, most of which will go on upgrading its network from 2.5G to 4G.
Tariq Gulzar, Warid’s CFO, told Reuters about the strategy.
He added that the privately-held Abu Dhabi Group (ADG), which wholly-owns Warid, is now fully committed to the operator after scrapping an attempt to sell it earlier in the year.
“Over the last 2-3 years, when we were going through the M&A process, we were a little dormant, we were holding back on those investments which we’re now going through,” the executive said.
The five-year plan kicked in from the beginning of Warid’s financial year (July 2014).
Warid did not participate in Pakistan’s recent auction of 3G and 4G spectrum, reportedly because its current licence is technology neutral. “Warid always had enough spectrum available to launch 4G/LTE service,” said Gulzar.
There has been local media speculation, however, that Warid will not necessarily find it straightforward to launch commercial 4G. While its current licence is technology neutral, it is not service neutral. PTA, the country’s regulator, will have to approve the 4G launch, say reports.
Rivals, which stumped up more than $1 billion in the country’s recent spectrum auction, are also likely to object to Warid’s non-fee route to 4G.
Earlier this week Warid announced it was using Ericsson’s LTE equipment for large-scale 4G deployment. The operator, in a press release, said it had already started an internal trial to test network capacity and service reliability, after which public trials will be announced (along with a programme for LTE-enabled devices).
Warid added it had already started delivering free LTE SIMs to its customers who have LTE-enabled handsets.
According to Warid’s CFO, however, network rollout plans are much more advanced. He says the operator is testing 4G in 3-4 major cities and will commercially launch in the next few weeks.