The senior management of all four telecom companies attended a meeting with the information technology secretary and discussed the need for enabling 3G and 4G services in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK)and Gilgit-Baltistan (GB).
The telecom companies informed the IT secretary that the region had been digitally isolated due to a lack of priority and timely decisions.
While residents of northern areas are deprived of internet connectivity in the absence of 3G and 4G services, authorities and telecommunication companies continue their blame game on enabling the internet in the region.
One of the senior management of telecom companies said that without the internet, the residents of these areas had no awareness about Covid-19. On the other hand, students enrolled in various educational institutes across the country, who had been sent back to their native towns, could not attend online classes.
They regretted that the 3G/4G spectrum auction was held in Pakistan in 2014 but almost six years later there still seemed to be no plan of action or roadmap for spectrum allocation to AJK and GB.
With increased uptake of digital services and solutions, mobile internet penetration had also increased since the launch of 3G/4G services in the country. The internet based connectivity had brought convenience for the people and opened a gateway to opportunities stemming from the mobile phone, including ride-hailing apps, food deliveries, online shopping, education, health and digitization of various sectors.
The telecom companies asked the government to release the spectrum immediately and allocate to service providers for provision of 3G and 4G services in AJK and GB during the Covid-19 outbreak. They suggested as the things normalised the authorities could restart and close the process of spectrum assignment that had lingered on for so long.
On the other hand, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) said all Cellular Mobile Operators (CMOs) were providing telecom services in AJK and Gilgit-Baltistan under licences issued in 2006.
The PTA further said that AJK and GB regions have total population of around six million while around 4.39m mobile subscribers were present in that area.
PTA added that minimum 13.6MHz spectrum was available with each operator in 900 and 1,800 bands. Jazz, Telenor, Zong, Ufone and the state-owned Special Communication Organisation (SCO) had installed around 1,100 cell sites in AJK and around 300 sites in GB.
It further added that out of these, four mobile operators except for Ufone are already providing 3G/4G services in AJK, while two operators the SCO and Telenor were present in GB.