The government of Pakistan and the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) imposed high fees of USD 450m on the renewal of mobile spectrum licenses in Pakistan which could adversely impact mobile connectivity. If operators did not pay the fees, their operations would come to a halt. GSMA sent a letter to the PTA and the Frequency Allocation Board (FAB) highlighting its concerns regarding the high fees which will encumber the capacity of operators to support affordable services and thus the transformation to digital economy. The licenses of the largest mobile operators – Jazz and Telenor – will expire on 25 May, while the third operator Zong will also have to renew its license this year. ‘It’s consumers that will lose out from imposing unfair conditions that put operators’ businesses in jeopardy. We’ve already seen the damaging consequences that high spectrum prices have on coverage and quality of service in other countries. It’s important that Pakistan doesn’t repeat these mistakes, and place gaining inflated revenues from spectrum licenses above the connectivity of its citizens,’ stressed GSMA Head of Spectrum Brett Tarnutzer.
The need for people to gain access to ICT resources and narrow the digital divide is crucial, and is especially relevant now in the light of the Sustainable Development Goals. It is also important to understand how access to the Internet affects the level of economic and social development in a country.
Internet access is growing rapidly, yet large groups of people remain unconnected to the Internet. As of 2015, about 43% of people had access to the Internet (in developing countries only 34%). Access to ICTs is part of the Sustainable Development Agenda, which commits to ‘significantly increase access to ICTs and strive to provide universal and affordable access to the Internet in least developed countries by 2020’ (Goal 9.c).