Federal Cabinet has approved policy directives for test and development of fifth generation (5G) wireless networks in Pakistan.
The current generation mobile services (3G/4G) are continuously gaining momentum in Pakistan since their launch in mid 2014.
As a result of the auctions conducted by the government, issuance of respective licenses and launch of 3G/4G mobile broadband services, the demand for data services is growing along with the subscriber base which has crossed 41 million in just three years.
According to the Ministry of Information Technology & Telecommunication (MoIT&T), Telecom Policy 2015 provides measures not only for early commercial adoption of the technology but also for conducive tests and an environment for developing upcoming and future technologies locally.
“It is imperative that we remain proactive in ensuring market readiness for the next wave of mobile communications i.e. 5G. 5G is expected to enable new ground breaking data rates and will considerably enhance the experience of services/applications that are available today,” the sources quoted Ministry of IT & Telecom Division.
5G Specifications & International Adoption
Research and development on 5G radio interface standards has been in full swing over the past five years at multilateral standardization fora.
ITU-R has recently published the key requirements related to the minimum technical performance of IMT-2020 (or 5G) candidate radio interface technologies. Similarly, another key standard development organization, e.g. 3GPP, in close collaboration with industry and academia is developing the specifications for 5G which is scheduled to be released to ITU-R by the 2019 deadline.
Based on evolving standards, a number of trials and tests are well underway around the globe on pre-standard 5G specs. South Korea is expected to have a pre-standard 5G system up and running for the 2018 Winter Olympics. Last month, China completed its plans to conduct a 5G field test in Beijing.
Directives for 5G
In view of the current scenario and to enable Pakistan to keep up with the growth and embrace new technologies, it is imperative to formalize the regulatory environment for test deployment and benchmarking of 5G technologies.
Thus, the Federal Government, using powers conferred by the Section 8(2) of the Pakistan Telecommunication (Re-organization) Act 1996 (Amended 2006), has approved the following directives for compliance of the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority.
- In line with Section 8.14 of the Telecom Policy 2015, PTA will issue a framework for Temporary Test and Development Licenses/Authorizations as appropriate for all future technologies particularly 5G Mobile technology.
- PTA will identify/set aside appropriate bandwidth in the frequency spectrum blocks currently under consideration for 5G standardization purposes wherever available in Pakistan. These could include the requisite spectrum blocks/channels in 2.6 GHz, 3.6 GHz and other relevant bands amenable to millimeter wave (mmW) propagation. Testing entities will be allowed access to such frequency blocks for testing purposes only.
- The framework for test and development licenses shall include criteria for the provision of the test licenses, conditions, duration, and other terms and conditions of reissuing the test licenses on expiry.
- PTA will consult stakeholders on the framework and then finalize the test and development framework within three months to enable eligible organizations to acquire such licenses.
- In defining the requirements for an organization to be eligible, PTA will consider the following types of organizations: telecommunications operators, equipment manufacturers, and research & development organizations, in order to encourage the highest level of technology and application innovation in Pakistan.
- The industry and other eligible organizations will be able to test and develop new services by the assignment of spectrum with specific conditions of use for research, development, testing and demonstration activities, and that such licence/ authorization will be made available within three months of application.
- PTA will forward the applications to FAB for allocation of suitable frequency band for any such request as per procedure in vogue.
- To oversee implementation under the test licensing /authorizations framework, PTA will form a multilateral working group comprising members of MoITT, PTA, FAB (Frequency Allocation Board) and industry. The working group will engage other stakeholders regarding harmonious testing and trials of technologies including 5G and will also recommend further suitable frequency bands if required in view of future technology/standards development as well as other technical and logistical requirements for the trials.
- Developments ensuing from such technology test and trials will be regularly published in the annual report of the authority.