Abu Dhabi-backed cellco Warid Telecom has begun testing Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology and aims to commercially launch services in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad after Eid (29-31 July), if it receives approval from the regulator in time. The Express Tribune writes that Warid has started trials of LTE services in Kot Lakhpat in Lahore and placed orders with its vendors for 4G SIMs. Before the cellco can begin offering LTE on a commercial basis, however, it requires approval from the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to use its existing technology-neutral licence to provide the new service. In an effort to expedite the approval process, Warid has begun pressuring the government to take action, a Warid spokesperson told press: ‘Since the approval is pending with the PTA for quite some time now, the company – at the board level – has started lobbying with the Pakistani government to seek an early approval for the commercial launch of its 4G services.’
As noted by TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, Warid did not take part in the 3G/4G frequency auction in April this year, opting instead to apply to use its existing spectrum holdings for 4G. Raising concerns that its initial application was too vague, failing to address how much of the cellco’s spectrum would be dedicated to LTE and any impact that might have on its 2G services, the regulator rejected Warid’s request and instructed it to file a more thorough application. According to a PTA official, Warid’s LTE network would still be required to meet the same standards as any other new deployment, including rollout and quality of service (QoS) obligations.
Meanwhile, Warid has dismissed criticism that the launch of an LTE platform on the same 8.8MHz of 1800MHz spectrum as its GSM network would compromise service quality: ‘Of the existing 8MHz, if we can use only 5MHz for 4G services and the remainder for our GSM customers, the quality of voice service won’t be affected. The corporate clients, GSM or voice customers, are the bread and butter of our business — we can’t compromise this segment for a limited number of high-end 4G users. There are only 2% to 3% handsets that are compatible with LTE service, which is a very small number.’