Digital Pakistan: IT & Telecom Ministry prepares draft framework for frequency spectrum re-farming

ISLAMABAD: The Ministry of Information Technology (IT) & Telecommunication has devised a draft Framework for Frequency Spectrum Re-Farming to facilitate in effective utilization of available spectrum, better quality and coverage of Mobile Broadband Services and additional revenues for the national exchequer.

As per details, Ministry of IT & Telecommunication (MoIT&T) has prepared the draft Framework for Frequency Spectrum Re-Farming, with recommendations from Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) and Frequency Allocation Board (FAB) and uploaded the draft on the Ministry of IT & Telecommunication website for open consultation. And, after conclusive open consultation, the final draft shall be submitted to the federal cabinet for final approval.

In a statement, MoIT&T also said that in view of increasing worldwide demand for radio communication services, Spectrum Re-Farming is considered a powerful and innovative approach to manage the spectrum dynamically so as to make it available for newer applications such as 4G, 5G, broadband wireless access, digital broadcasting, etc.

In the light of the Telecom Policy 2015, this framework for spectrum re-farming is prepared to ensure timely introduction of new technologies and services for the greater benefit of all stakeholders including consumers and Government of Pakistan (GoP), said draft Framework for Frequency Spectrum Re-Farming prepared by the MoIT&T.

According to a draft Framework for Frequency Spectrum Re-Farming, PTA/PEMRA and FAB will recommend to MoIT&T the requirement to re-farm any given frequency band while the MoIT&T, PTA/PEMRA and FAB may discuss the subject spectrum re-farming with the incumbent user. Moreover, the federal government, through MoIT&T, will decide to re-farm any spectrum and such a decision will be affected through a policy directive.

The policy directive shall include spectrum to be re-farmed e.g. 700 MHz, constitution of “Spectrum Refarming Committee” (as per Telecom Policy 2015 section 8.5.5) comprising MoIT & T, FAB, PTA/PEMRA and incumbent users. Similarly, the Federal Government may opt for any other member which it considers appropriate at that time. Moreover, authorization to PTA/PEMRA for hiring an independent reputed expert/consultant (if required) to carry out a detailed subject analysis and present recommendations to the committee.

The main ToRs of the committee/consultant may include estimate the value of the re-farmed spectrum using the valuation method to be adopted (for government users only) and to estimate the compensation cost of refarming (for government users only) while quantum of spectrum to be re-farmed in the approved band e.g. 700 MHz. Also, to determine timeline for re-farming and seek the input from relevant stakeholders.

The committee shall submit its final recommendations to the Federal Government through the MoIT&T within three (3) months (if 3rd party consultation is not required) and if 3rd party consultation is required, then appropriate time will be added to engage the consultant. Similarly, the committee will regularly monitor the implementation status of the spectrum reframing process as per the approved timelines. Likewise, the recommendations of the committee as approved by the Federal Government shall be binding for the incumbent user.

As per the guidelines for Spectrum Re-farming, PTA/FAB shall implement the re-farming process for the users and PTA licensees. PEMRA/FAB shall implement the re-farming process for the users and PEMRA licensees. The licensees may opt for new advanced services in the assigned band. However, any change of technology by a licensee will be evaluated/allowed by the concerned regulator with intimation to FAB. In case of any concern of members of the board with respect to the frequency spectrum, FAB will share with the concerned regulator within 15 working days and inform the members of the board accordingly. Spectrum rationalization cases, i.e. relocation of licensees within the same frequency range, will be implemented through joint working between the concerned regulatory body and FAB. An advance notice of the proposed changes shall be issued to the existing users/licensees by the concerned regulator enabling them to plan and implement any consequent changes. The use of frequency spectrum can be revoked through the mutual consent between the user/licensee and the concerned regulator, i.e. PTA or PEMRA. PTA/PEMRA will finalize the modalities and regulatory measures for the remaining period of the license. After FAB approval, PTA/PEMRA may grant a new license to any other operator in the already assigned frequency spectrum to the incumbent (which may include the satellite operator, broadcasting operator etc.), prior to the expiry of the existing use/license/authorization on co-existence basis. Incumbent users will be consulted during this process. However, PTA/PEMRA shall restrict the new licensees by requiring them not to cause harmful interference to incumbents. The committee will regularly monitor the implementation status of the spectrum refarming process as per the approved timelines and if a specific frequency band which is announced by the Federal Government for refarming; is sub-judice in court of law, the Federal Government will make all efforts for timely resolution of such cases.

 

Ahmad Ahmadani
The author is an investigative journalist. He can be reached at [email protected]

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