Pakistani prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani has given in-principle approval to the country’s long-delayed 3G policy, and the cabinet committee has now been directed to put the proposed legislation before the cabinet for final approval, the Express Tribune reports. The development comes after Gilani presided over a meeting covering topics including third-generation licence allocation, grey traffic and additional spectrum for wireless local loop operators. As part of the discussions it is understood that international operators not already active in the Pakistani wireless sector will be invited to bid for the 2G concession formerly held by Pakcom; as noted in TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, in January 2008 the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) announced that it had terminated Pakcom’s licence following the operator’s repeated failures to pay for the renewal of its concession, although it was not until May 2010 that legal challenges to cancellation of the concession were overturned.
The sale of the 2G concession will come alongside the sale of third-generation frequencies, and the decision to allow new international players to take part in the sale process is believed to have been made with a view to encouraging competition. The country’s existing mobile operators will also be permitted to bid in the auction. One caveat for any new would-be operators is the revelation that, should a bidder not already operating in Pakistan win, they will only be allowed to launch commercial services after March 2013, when a moratorium on new licensing expires. Alongside confirming plans for who can bid, it has also been decided that there will be three 10MHz blocks of 3G spectrum made available. Further, in order to ensure that the process is transparent it has reportedly been decided that a committee of public sector stakeholders, including representatives from the ministries of finance and information technology, as well as from the PTA and the Frequency Allocation Board, will supervise the auction process.