Pakistani office workers speak on their mobile phones. Pakistan raised $279 million in a sale of telecom spectrum at the base price. Image Credit: AFP

Islamabad: Pakistan raised $279 million in a sale of telecom spectrum at the base price, with Pakistan Telecommunications Mobile Ltd. the sole bidder in an auction that was snubbed by the country’s three other major phone operators.

Pakistan Telecom’s unit Ufone won nine megahertz in the 1,800 megahertz band, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority said in a statement late Friday. Pakistan Telecom will pay half the bid amount within 15 days and the rest over five years, according to the statement. The total value of both bands of spectrum on offer was $832 million at base price, the regulator said, adding that no offer was made for the 2,100 megahertz band.

Jazz, a unit of Veon Ltd., China Mobile Ltd.’s Zong and Telenor Pakistan - which are all in a legal battle with the regulator over renewal of their existing spectrum fees - didn’t take part in the process, the first such auction since Prime Minister Imran Khan came to power three years ago. Veon Chief Executive Officer Kaan Terzioglu earlier this month said Pakistan’s telecom spectrum should be priced in rupees rather than dollars as the pricing is not sustainable.

The spectrum policy, pricing and rollout obligations deterred Telenor from participating in the airwaves sale, spokesman Saad Warriach said after the bidding was closed Thursday. “The existing circumstances did not present the economic viability to invest in the spectrum during this year’s auction,” he said.

Pakistan’s mobile subscriber’s base has reached 84.4% of the country’s 220 million population, according to Pakistan Telecommunication Authority data.