The development of a country’s information and communications technology (ICT) ecosystem is now essential to achieve economic growth and social progress. In particular, today’s global economy is being accelerated by advances in 5G connectivity.

5G networks are emerging not only as the foundation for advanced communication services, but also as the infrastructure supporting socio-economic development. It is a tool to enable the creation of smart cities and which can support other next-generation technologies like AI and IoT to offer more digital services to enterprises and consumers. In one recent study, it was forecasted that 5G will enable $13.2 trillion of global economic output in 2035.

5G mobile services began rolling out in 2019 in some nations, but the next few years will see the technology become even more mainstream. With this in mind, it is more important than ever that governments explore the possibilities of improving ICT infrastructure, and specifically, initiating network evolution to move their countries into the era of 5G connectivity.

Pakistan has started on this journey. This spring, for example, saw the first meeting held of the Advisory Committee for 5G Planning in Pakistan (5G Pakistan Plan Committee), which discussed the way forward and key challenges for the introduction of 5G technology in the country. Test trials of 5G mobile technology are also heating up between mobile operators.

However, leaping to a 5G-enabled society requires governments to release appropriate – and affordable – mobile spectrum. Spectrum management, regulations, and pricing have a direct impact on 5G commercialization and service provision. Ensuring timely availability of the spectrum under appropriate conditions allows the wireless market to respond to consumer and industrial demand for services.

By working with international counterparts, industry regulators in Pakistan can support globally harmonized spectrum policies, which enable economies of scale and facilitates cross-border coordination and roaming for end users. As per industry experts and proven experiences in other parts of the world, the spectrum for 5G should start in what is called the 100 MHz bandwidth, with additional spectrum bands considered so that there is a seamless transition between today’s networks and future 5G networks.

Moreover, in many countries the excessive spectrum pricing resulting from 3G assignment procedures imposed a heavy burden on mobile operators. Learning lessons from the past, telecom experts now recommend that 5G spectrum pricing should be significantly lower than for 3G or even 4G. Proportionate spectrum fees will allow operators to remain more focused on network investment, and it will drive down end-user prices, bringing long-term socio-economic benefits through 5G digital connectivity. Exclusive national licensing is the preferred authorization model for 5G, with new spectrum assignments being technology-neutral.

Decisions around 5G spectrum allocation and licensing will be all the more important as Pakistan continues to develop its ICT infrastructure. In the end, the technology has huge potential to support the diversified economic growth and job creation agenda of Pakistan Vision 2025, and that is something that will benefit both individuals and enterprises alike.

-The writer is a communications professional.