First four rounds of 3G sale complete; SC dismisses last-minute attempt to halt tender

23 Apr 2014

The Pakistan Telecom Authority (PTA) has opened bidding for 3G concessions and has completed the first four rounds of bidding, ProPakistani writes. Bids have been entered for four blocks of spectrum, two of 2×5MHz and two of 2×10MHz, all in the 2100MHz range. After three rounds of bidding, the two smaller blocks (B and C) have not moved above the reserve price of USD147.5 million, whilst of the two larger blocks, block A had edged up to USD306.92 million from the base price of USD295 million, whilst block D had increased to USD300.9 million. Incumbent cellcos Mobilink, Telenor Pakistan, China Mobile Pakistan (CMPak/Zong) and Pakistan Telecommunications Mobile Ltd (PTML/Ufone) are competing for the spectrum rights, whilst Warid has elected not to participate in the auction. Bidding is due to continue until winners are determined, potentially extending the auction to a second or third day: ProPakistani cites unnamed cellco officials as saying that bidding is expected to carry on to a second day. Bidding for 4G concessions, meanwhile, will take place upon the completion of the 3G sale.

Marring the auction somewhat was an eleventh-hour bid to close down the tender, with a challenge filed with the Supreme Court shortly before the sale was due to begin. The petition, submitted by the Watan political party, claimed that the USD1.3 billion revenue targeted by the auction was far less than anticipated by the government and that the PTA were under-valuing the spectrum. Challenging the legality of the sale, the petition also alleged that the participating cellcos were defaulters on bank liabilities and that the auction had not followed the rules of the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA). The apex court dismissed the allegations, however, allowing the tender to go ahead as planned.