Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has published “Rolling Spectrum Strategy 2020-2023”, observing that C-band (3.6 – 4.2 GHz) is a core spectrum band for 5G deployment and recommended for a cost-benefit analysis to assess the optimum approach for its release for 5G.
The strategy stated that many national regulators globally have either assigned this spectrum for mobile or have started preparations to do so. PTA/FAB/MoIT, in consultation with SUPARCO, should carry out a cost-benefit analysis to assess the optimum approach for the release of C-band for 5G.
The following passage highlights the PTA’s new strategy.
Since there are four mobile operators in Pakistan, it is recommended that the PTA/FAB consider 35 percent or 40 percent, a reference point.
The PTA/FAB should in conjunction with the Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) ascertain if an operator acquiring spectrum (whether through merger or through an upcoming auction) will have unfair advantage over small competitors.
The evaluation will take into account the operator’s share of subscriber as well as the opportunity for other operators to acquire spectrum through an upcoming auction.
The MoIT&T/PTA/FAB may take a stance that the operator with a higher than 35 percent/40 percent of all mobile spectrum to be barred from an impending auction.
The Spectrum Master Plan provides a future roadmap for spectrum allocation as well as spectrum-related policy reviews that are anticipated to take place between 2020 and 2023.
The strategy revealed that there is a high chance that devices will hit critical mass before 2020 and recommended that the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication/PTA/FAB aim to allocate the band for auction.
This band is also crucial for Pakistan operators to extend the coverage to rural areas since it has better propagation characteristics.
The report revealed that the PTA/FAB was considering implementing an AIP-base spectrum pricing framework to replace the current ASAF.
As part of the spectrum pricing review, the PTA/FAB has already submitted the revised ACR fee levels for principle approval by the government of Pakistan for implementation. It will be applied to services where auctions and the AIP are not implemented.
The strategy has recommended that the current charging regime based on ASAF may continue till the time a market-based pricing formula for back-haul spectrum is in place.
The ASAF is the administrative cost for managing access and back haul spectrums used by mobile operators pursuant to cellular policy 2004.
It may be decoupled i.e. separate regimes to be introduced for Access Spectrum Annual Administration Fees and Microwave Backhaul Spectrum (Administrative Incentive Pricing) regime.
The AIP and revised ASAF regimes to be implemented once finalised.
The PTA/FAB need to work for rationalisation of spectrum, so that mobile operators can be provided with standard spectrum blocks.
Some operators have started to shut down 2G systems in some countries, while 2G will continue to be in use in many places including Pakistan, it will also start to phase out in a few years as mobile operators try to promote smart phones to earn revenue from data services.
It is therefore useful to consider the long-term use of this band and as far as possible divide the band into separate lots of 2x 5MHz.
Globally, the 1800 MHz is one of the most popular spectrum bands for mobile communications.
The band is now used to deploy LTE by several operators around the world.
The PTA/FAB has also received requests for additional spectrum assignments in this band.
With widespread global adoption, equipment is readily available and this band is deemed valuable to mobile operators, particularly for the deployment of the LTE.
The PTA/FAB should plan transparent and effective methodology for assignment of vacant portion of this band.
The 2500MHz offers 190MHz of bandwidth (2500–2690 MHz) and it is allocated in many countries for mobile services.
This band should be a high priority after the 1800MHz has been fully assigned.
This band is now being used in many countries for LTE systems, and often being aggregated with other bands to deliver faster LTE speeds.
This is crucial for mobile operators in Pakistan.
Mobile operators have also applied with the PTA/FAB to conduct 5G trials in this band.
The C-band (3.6 – 4.2 GHz) is a core spectrum band for 5G deployment.