Caretaker minister promises 5G auction within 10 months
ISLAMABAD: In a spirited assertion of Pakistan’s technological aspirations, the caretaker Information Technology (IT) Minister, Dr Umar Saif, has revealed plans to hold a 5G auction within the next ten months. This announcement follows a series of assertive claims from other caretaker ministers, sparking discussions on the extent of their mandates.
The proclamation emerged after a pivotal meeting between Saif and Chairman Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), Maj Gen (R) Hafeezur Rehman. The discussions delved into intricate matters of telecommunications, the impending 5G auction, and spectrum allocation.
Citing a commitment to surmount hurdles, Saif highlighted the urgency of dismantling obstacles in the 5G auction process. He emphasised the priority resolution of issues related to taxation, tele-density, and spectrum distribution.
The IT minister also emphasised the government’s dedication to enhancing service quality, ultimately benefiting the masses through the forthcoming 5G auction.
Currently, Pakistan faces challenges in cellular service quality, ranking 79 out of 100 globally in the Inclusive Internet Index. The quality concerns stem from limited investment in the telecom infrastructure, with the nation’s telecom operators operating on a mere 274 MHz Spectrum to serve one of the world’s largest telecom user bases in the world.
Considering this, Saif emphasised that a swift improvement in the existing 4G infrastructure, coupled with the accelerated rollout of 5G, is imperative to enhancing service provision.
The meeting was also attended by the Additional Secretary MoITT, Aisha Humera Moriani, and DG Wireless Muhammad Jahanzeb Rahim.
Saif further elaborated on the potential of Pakistan’s IT sector in addressing the nation’s trade imbalance. Highlighting the sector’s impressive 80% trade surplus, he deemed it a viable driver of economic growth.
The IT sector currently boasts $2.6 billion in exports and provides employment to approximately 150,000 professionals. The IT minister noted that although Pakistani software developers earn between $17,000 to $18,000 annually, their Indian counterparts earn around $30,000.
The minister acknowledged the gap in skills within the IT sector, urging collaboration between local experts and universities to align curricula with international standards.
Expounding on his vision, Saif proposed incentivising local IT companies to channel funds back into Pakistan, potentially infusing the economy with an additional $1 to $2 billion.
He underscored Pakistan’s position as the seventh-largest global mobile phone market, home to a remarkable 190 million mobile phone users. The IT minister revealed the government’s aspiration to encourage domestic manufacturing of affordable, high-quality mobile phones. This strategic approach aims to reduce reliance on imports and bolster the nation’s tech industry while generating employment opportunities.