Four mobile operators qualify for 3G, 4G auction
ISLAMABAD: The bids of four mobile operators of Pakistan qualified for the auction of 3G and 4G licenses, Chairman of Pakistan Telecommunications Authority, Ismail Shah, told Dawn on Thursday.
Shah said that the four companies, namely Mobilink, Telenor, Ufone and Zong, were not defaulters of the government and the legal aspects of their bids had been scrutinised by the PTA and its consultants.
Another senior official, requesting not to be named, told Dawn that $210 million had been received as a ‘non-refundable’ pre-bid deposit, which was 15 per cent of the base price of the bid amount and was required to qualify for the participation in the auction.
Pakistan is set to hold long-awaited auctions for 3G and 4G network licences on April 23.
Finance Minister Ishaq Dar had said on Wednesday, that the auction of next generation licences was expected to fetch the national exchequer $1.3 billion and create employment opportunities for about 100,000 people.
Bids to the long-awaited auction of next-generation cellphone spectrum licences were submitted on April 14 about which the PTA had said that the response received from four existing cellular mobile operators of Pakistan was “very encouraging and satisfactory for the PTA”, while also rubbishing reports of a dismal response by a foreign news agency.
Pakistan is the only major country in the region that still does not offer 3G services. Its neighbour, war-ravaged Afghanistan, launched 3G services in 2012.
Senate sub-committee recommends cancellation of auction
On the other hand, the sub-committee of the Senate Standing Committee on Information Technology on Wednesday recommended the government and PTA to halt the process of auctioning 3G and 4G spectrum licenses, scheduled to take place on April as it did not fulfill the requirements of law.
The meeting presided by Senator Zahid Khan, Convener Sub-committee of the Senate Standing Committee on Information Technology, said its recommendations would be sent to its parent body, the Senate Standing Committee on Information Technology.
Senator Zahid Khan, said that PTA was incomplete and the reply of the Federal Ministry of Law and the PTA in this regard was not satisfactory.
The sub-committee asked the government to to maintain the PTA’s quorum before going ahead with the auction.
The sub-committee said that any action/activity carried out without filling the post of the member compliance and enforcement in the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority would be ‘illegal’ including the 3G and 4G auction.
The position in the three-member Authority has been lying vacant for long.
The other members are the chairman and member finance. The Cabinet Division had last advertised to fill the seat in June 2013.
The sub-committee also suggested that Ufone should be excluded from the auction as majority of its shares were owned by the government and also because Etisalat International Pakistan, which had bought a 26 per cent stake in the company, still owed the government USD800m.
Sub-committee member Faisal Raza Abidi claimed that a company which was the government’s defaulter, was included in the auction process adding that any company owned by the government or owing money to the Universal Services Fund (USF) could not be included in the auction.
He further said that the motive of the Sub-committee was not to halt the auction process but to ensure the fulfillment of the requirements of the law.
Abidi also suggested the holding of separate auctions for the 3G and 4G licenses claiming that it would help generate additional revenue of $1.5 billion.
Earlier on Wednesday, the Supreme Court of Pakistan, had said that the auction would not be affected by the recent sensationalism of the issue on the media and that the auction would proceed as scheduled.
The apex court also ordered that the proceeds of the auction should be kept in the Federal Consolidated Fund (FCF) until it settles a dispute about the custody of the Universal Services Fund (USF).
The three-judge bench headed by Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja was hearing a petition of an IT expert, Khurram Shehzad Chughtai, who had sought a directive for the auction of 3G spectrum license, after a row had cropped up when the government transferred the Rs62 billion fund meant exclusively for the telecom sector to the FCF from the ministry of information technology.