Furious finance minister may scrap 3G auction over poor turnout

16 Apr 2014

Officials from Pakistan’s Ministry of Information, Technology and Telecommunication (MoITT) have estimated that the ongoing spectrum auction for 3G and 4G frequencies will raise no more than USD850 million for state coffers, falling far short of its anticipated USD2.0 billion turnover and meaning that the government will struggle to fund its budget this year. Reuters quotes an unnamed official as saying: ‘The finance minister (Ishaq Dar) is very angry, so much so that he wants to call off the auction if we are so embarrassingly off target.’ The official went on to blame ‘an over-enthusiastic IT ministry [for overselling] an undercooked plan to its fiscal managers.’ The long-awaited auction had expected to draw interest from international operators and attract a new player to the market, but at the deadline for offers on Monday the only offers came from four of the incumbent cellcos and for 3G licences only. Turkcell and Saudi Telecom Company (STC) had previously expressed an interest in acquiring licences but opted not to take part. Compounding the issue, a source from the finance ministry told Reuters that there had been no interest in the 4G licence, adding: ‘The disappointing bids are deepening the budget hole by almost USD1.7 billion and are such a big hit the finance minister is ready to postpone the whole auction process.’