Pakistani market leader Jazz was the only bidder in the country’s latest spectrum auction, underlining that the country’s operators lack an appetite for further spectrum acquisition.
Although a consultant report commissioned by the country’s regulator warned that the market was not ready for fresh spectrum auctions so soon after the previous round of bidding, the government’s insistence on pushing ahead with them has evidently drawn a muted response.
Jazz, which has a market share of 37%, bought a 10MHz block of paired 1.8GHz spectrum for the reserve price of $295 million, which was set by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) in March. The block acquired by Jazz was one of two in the 850MHz and 1.8GHz bands that went unsold in 2014’s auction of 850MHz, 1.8GHz, and 1.9GHz to 2.1GHz spectrum.
The unsold block of 850MHz spectrum was acquired in June 2016 by Telenor, which is the second largest operator in the market. At the time of sale, it was also the sole bidder and was therefore able to obtain the block for the base price of $395 million. Pakistan’s three other largest operators - Jazz (previously Mobilink), Ufone and China Mobile’s Zong – all abstained from the auction.
Jazz is on a drive to increase its 4G subscriber base, having hit 800,000 4G connections at the end of Q1, with its recent acquisition of Warid accounting for 640,000 4G subs. Number three Zong is the market’s leading 4G provider, with 3.4 million subscribers, while Telenor Pakistan had around 230,000 at the end of Q1. Ufone has not yet launched a 4G service.