State-backed cellco Ufone has been named as the sole winner of the recent spectrum auction, with the provider purchasing an additional 2×9MHz in the 1800MHz band for the reserve prices of USD279 million. Sector watchdog the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) noted that Ufone was the only company to submit an offer for the available spectrum, which included frequencies in the 1800MHz and 2100MHz bands. The decision by Ufone’s three competitors – Jazz, part of Netherlands-registered group VEON, Norwegian-owned Telenor Pakistan and Zong, a subsidiary of China Mobile – sparked criticism of the auction process, particularly the pricing of the airwaves.
Local daily Dawn cites PTA Chairman Amir Azeem Bajwa as saying that the auction could not be termed a failure as all providers were invited to participate and only those that needed the spectrum purchased it. Addressing the case for each of the trio that withdrew from the process, the official claimed that Jazz and Telenor currently have sufficient spectrum resources to meet their needs whilst Zong is involved in litigation regarding a portion of its spectrum allocation and ‘they must be hoping to have it sooner or later’. The chairman went on to argue that the cost for the licences was not high, claiming that the prices were lower than other countries in the region, naming Bangladesh and India as examples.
Ufone is a wholly-owned subsidiary of fixed line incumbent Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL), in which the government has a majority interest whilst UAE-based Etisalat group holds a minority stake and management control.