Rapid mobile broadband deployment in Pakistan is around the corner thanks to the updated rules for the April 23 spectrum auction. The commitment of the four operators that filed sealed bids on April 14th to participate in the auction is a proof that this process is moving on the right direction and will be a success.

Importantly, the updated rules for the auctions incorporate suggestions from a diverse group of stakeholders – which demonstrates a public debate on key policy issues helps to improve policymaking. Although recent elected governments have been good for Pakistan, without the give and take of a true public policy debate, including debate in the press, democracy actually means very little.

A successful spectrum auction is very likely because government kept dialogue open with all potential bidders, leading to important changes in the auction rules that assure not only a successful auction but also benefit consumers in the years ahead.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has made Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) one of his priorities. “We will give the highest priority to the development of ICT for the provision of quality services, education, employment generation and female empowerment”, he told in Bangkok last November. “Pakistan is strategically located at the crossroads of south and central Asia and the energy-rich Middle East, and will provide a business-friendly environment for all kind of ICT services to grow”.

In addition, he opened his door to senior executives of telecom companies willing to bid for mobile broadband spectrum and acted swiftly when controversial issues threatened to derail the process.

The June budget can further strengthen the telecom sector investment environment if it rationalises telecom taxation. The elimination of the activation tax for mobile broadband SIM-cards could result in a much quicker take-up of wireless broadband by the public than would otherwise be the case.

This, combined with dropping the 19.5pc GST for telecoms to the standard industry level of 17pc, would go a long way towards making Pakistan a very attractive place for investment in ICT.

–A Contributor