Pioneering Pakistan’s Technological Ascent: A Comprehensive Analysis of the 5G Deployment Landscape
Akhund Forbes, Karachi
Pakistan, a country rich in cultural diversity and history, is leading the way in the rollout of 5G networks, a technological revolution, particularly for the Global South. With the world striving for technological superiority, Pakistan is preparing to become one of the countries providing the next wave of connectivity. This article examines the current regulatory frameworks, recent policy announcements and the role of financial institutions in facilitating this revolutionary transition. It also delves into the intricate details of the legal, financial and strategic aspects surrounding the introduction of 5G in Pakistan.
Current regulatory framework
The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) published the ‘Framework for Test and Development of Future Technologies’ in June 2019, laying the regulatory foundation for 5G in Pakistan. Entities registered with the Pakistan Engineering Council (PEC) and/or the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) are now able to apply for test and development authorisations according to this extensive framework. The document laid the groundwork for the later stages of 5G deployment by carefully outlining eligibility requirements, application procedures and the terms and circumstances pertaining to the temporary test licences.
Ministry’s vision: Pakistan’s 5G rollout by August 2024
The ambitious plan of the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication (MOITT) to launch 5G services in Pakistan by August 2024 advanced significantly in October 2023. The Ministry has created a thorough business strategy which outlines the timeline for the rollout of 5G in conjunction with the acting federal cabinet. Strategic components of this plan include the appointment of foreign advisors and the creation of an inter-ministerial advisory body to supervise the development. The focus on lowering the cost of the infrastructure deployment demonstrates a progressive strategy to deal with budgetary constraints and guarantee a more seamless transition.
The role of the State Bank of Pakistan and Circular No.23 of 2023
The central bank of Pakistan, the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), plays a pivotal role in regulating the financial ecosystem of the technology industry. A testament to the SBP’s dedication to promoting software and IT-enabled service exports is Circular No 17 of 2023. This circular promotes an environment favourable to foreign exchange inflow by allowing exporters in the IT sector to retain 50 per cent of their earnings outside the nation. Further streamlining financial transactions and clearing the way for technological agreements and investments in 5G infrastructure are the general approvals granted by the SBP for external payments linked to digital services.
MOITT’s progressive approach
The MOITT is steering Pakistan towards technological superiority and is looking towards Malaysia’s pioneering 5G deployment which highlights a cooperative strategy and demonstrates a dedication to implementing international best practices. This progressive approach fosters an atmosphere of innovation and constant improvement, in line with the IT industry’s dynamic nature and putting Pakistan in a position to gain key insights from successful overseas models.
Addressing lag and financial costs
Pakistan has admitted to being behind other countries in the world when it comes to the rollout of 5G but the government is taking a proactive stance to improve this, as evidenced by its dedication to developing policy frameworks and improving infrastructure. In order to ensure that the financial benefits of 5G technology are fully realised, concerted measures to overcome financial roadblocks and create a smooth 5G transition are expected to take place in the months to come.
Legal provisions for 5G licensing
On 11 October 2023,  the Federal Cabinet approved the long-awaited 5G spectrum auction, which will be conducted by a commission headed by the finance minister, according to the Minister of Information Technology and Telecommunication. With 300 Megahertz available, this spectrum has the potential to completely change Pakistan’s telecom environment. With the help of the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority and a soon-to-be appointed consultant, the committee comprising the ministries of IT, Telecommunication and Industries hopes to ensure a seamless auction process. Additionally, the cabinet approved the sharing of telecom infrastructure between businesses, which is viewed as a business-friendly measure that could drastically reduce operating costs by enabling businesses to use each other’s towers. This change is anticipated to result in significant savings – possibly billions of rupees – which might then be used to improve the calibre and accessibility of telecoms services across the country.
Pakistan’s dedication to technological improvement is demonstrated by the current framework, recent policy declarations and the role of the SBP. MOITT’s forward-thinking strategy shows a sophisticated comprehension of the nuances involved in bringing in a new era of connection. In addition to being a technical advancement, the 5G journey is a collaborative effort of regulatory agencies, financial institutions and industry stakeholders to shape Pakistan’s digital landscape going forward and to maintain the country’s position in innovation and technology globally.
 Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, ‘Framework for Test and Development of Future Technologies (Particularly Fifth Generation (5G) Wireless Networks) in Pakistan’ June 2019 at https://pta.gov.pk/assets/media/final_framework_5g_test_trials_260619.pdf.
 ‘Pakistan’s to learn from Malaysia’s innovative approach, polices regarding rollout of 5G: Minister’ Associated Press of Pakistan (Pakistan, 17 October 2023) at www.app.com.pk/national/pakistans-to-learn-from-malaysias-innovative-approach-policies-regarding-rollout-of-5g-minister/.
 Zafar Bhutta, ‘Pakistan eyes 5G amid forex curbs’ The Express Tribune (Pakistan, 3 September 2023) at https://tribune.com.pk/story/2433845/pakistan-eyes-5g-amid-forex-curbs.
 ‘Cabinet gives green signal for auction of 5G spectrum, Minister’ Associated Press of Pakistan (Pakistan, 11 October 2023) at www.app.com.pk/national/cabinet-gives-green-signal-for-auction-of-5g-spectrum-minister/.