Countries with commercially available 5G have achieved 70% or more 4G penetration, while Pakistan currently stands at 43%. We need a 4G-for-all approach; not 5G for few

In the recently held GSMA’s Mobile360 Asia-Pacific conference, the panel for ‘Expectations, Experiences and Reality of 5G Journey’ discussed various perspectives towards the implementation of 5G technology.

“There is a lot of hype about 5G amongst business leaders, policymakers, and the media, but this is not the same revolution of two decades ago when 3G was the big deal and countries jumped on the bandwagon without a clear roadmap,” said panelist Aamir Ibrahim, CEO Jazz, while answering a question on the ways developing countries can be enticed to adopt 5G. ‘Prior to adopting 5G wireless technology, policymakers in Pakistan must sit with stakeholders and devise plans for the country’s digital ecosystem that support the shift from prevailing 3G and 4G services.’

These prerequisite steps, maintained Ibrahim, are essential for attracting operators to 5G. “5G requires fundamental changes in both investment strategy, spectrum policy and deployment. It also requires much higher upfront investment costs, principally capex [capital expenditure], and yet faces higher uncertainty in commercialization of the novel use cases. Adopting and implementing a 5G network requires a concerted effort from all stakeholders to overhaul outdated policies, ensure availability of affordable smart devices, strike partnerships, garner investments, release spectrum, develop digital skills, create demand, and foster innovation,” he added.

The Jazz CEO said he believed Pakistan’s infrastructure needed to be further developed before it could adopt and implement 5G. “For consumers, if their demand is merely faster speeds, we can provide that through a more robust 4G infrastructure,” he explained.

Jazz’s Ibrahim noted that rather than prioritizing new services for existing users of mobile internet, the focus should be on expanding their numbers. “45 percent of subscribers don’t use mobile broadband, while 15 percent of the population lives without any telecom coverage,” he said of Pakistan. “Countries that have commercially launched 5G have achieved close to 70 percent or more 4G penetration, while this number stands at around 43 percent in Pakistan. We need a 4G-for-all approach now, rather than 5G for few,” he added.

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