ISLAMABAD - The government has constituted a high-level committee in a bid to expedite much delayed auction process of third generation (3G) mobile spectrum licence that would generate huge revenue amounting $80 million to $1 billion in fiscal year (FY) 2013-14, it has learnt.

Interestingly, the incumbent regime so far could not even initiate the process of auction of 3G licence during the first quarter of current fiscal year. Former PPP-led government remained fail to bring foreign investment to the country through the auction of 3G licence. No progress was so far made in this very regard due to certain reasons including absence of chairman PTA (Pakistan Telecommunication Authority), members of PTA and slackness of the government towards the appointment of top slots in the regulatory authority during the said period. However, on finding reluctance and delaying tactics of the government towards the appointment of chairman PTA and members of the regulatory authority and also towards the auction of 3G licence as it was preached in a petition submitted with the honourable court, the Supreme Court (SC) ordered the government to complete the appointment process of PTA chairman and its members in 10 days (till last September) and finalise the auction of 3-G licences within two months. Complying with Supreme Court orders to complete the quorum of regulatory authority, the government appointed Dr Syed Ismail Shah as an acting chairman while Tariq Sultan as member (finance) and Law Ministry’s secretary Justice (Retd) Muhammad Raza Khan was given the additional charge of member (compliance and enforcement). These high officials have assumed their charges.

Official sources told this scribe that the government has formed a high level committee to speed up the auction process of 3G licence that would expectedly generate $80 million to $1 billion revenue during FY 2013-14. This advisory committee constituted by the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif under the chairmanship of federal minister for finance to finalise the arrangements for auction would comprise of Ms. Anusha Rahman Ahmad Khan, Minister of State For Information Technology & Telecom, Akhlaq Ahmad Tarar, Secretary (IT & Telecom), Syed Ismail Shah interim chairman PTA etc. This high level committee is scheduled to meet here on Thursday (today) where formal approval for the policy directive would be sought.

The incumbent PML-N government in its first annual federal budget had estimated recovery of $800million from Etisalat and $80million to $1billion revenue generation through the auction of 3G license during the on going financial year 2013-14 as the PTA officials had estimated that a 3G auction could raise $1 billion in annual licence fees.

The sources also said that cheap mobile phone telephony took Pakistan by storm in the early 2000s and according to the PTA there are more than 122 million mobile phone subscribers - or 68.6 per cent of the population. However, Pakistani consumers struggle hard to transfer data by phone, video streaming is often interrupted - although technically YouTube is banned - and video calls problematic. The government through the sale of 3G mobile telephone licences is interested to raise revenue, match regional rivals and drive prosperity, but the no concrete measure so far taken to initiate the process, which has now been beset by delays.

Meanwhile, Senate Standing Committee on Information Technology that met with Senator Muhammad Idrees Khan Safi in the chair here on Wednesday. The committee directed to make the auction process more transparent.

Briefing the Senate body, State Minister for Information Technology Anusha Rehman said that she had prepared the directive policy for the auction of spectrum auction (3G), which would be approved by a high level advisory committee, constituted by the Prime Minister for spectrum auction. The minister further said that there are four operators interested in the spectrum auction; however there is no ban on new entrants after the expiry of Moratorium in March 2013 in this regard.   

Acting Chairman Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) Dr Ismail Shah informed the committee that the available spectrum for auction is not enough to be shared among all the operators and objective of the auction were to bring more and more foreign investment in the country.

Secretary IT Akhlaque Ahmed Tarrar and Dr Ismail Shah told the senate body that the government has decided to go for the auction following the instruction of court. After completion of the formalities including the completion the PTA setup, like appointing its chairman and other members, now the policy is going towards the auction process.

The senate body was informed that international repute consultant would be hired for determining price for the bidding process of 3G licenses and, after the completion process of auction some formalities, the detail of auction for 3G will be presented in the committee for further guide line. The senate body suggested following the UK 2007 auction for 3G license, which fetched higher amount i.e. 20 billion pounds.

The economic pundits when contacted to know the impact of auction of 3G license, they said that the auction of 3G license would decrease the dependency on bank borrowing and would also help in stabilising Pakistani rupee which is under sever pressure against US dollar from last many days due to certain reasons including heavy repayments to the Internal Monetary Fund (IMF), hajj season, investment in US dollars, and lesser foreign inflows etc. The economists were of the firm opinion that the recent colossal hike in the prices of petroleum products (POL) was mainly due to value depreciation of Pakistani rupee against the US dollar. Decrease in the value of Pakistani rupees has heavily caused Rs291/litre hike in petrol, Rs2.50/litre in HOBC, and Rs2.63/litre surge in the price of diesel while if fluctuating trend of prices in global oil market was considered then 25paisa decrease was made in the price of diesel, 50paisa in Light Diesel Oil, Rs1 in JP1 and no change in kerosene was made. But the government had jacked up the POL prices up to Rs5.57/litre to be effective for the month of ongoing October across the country.