3G Licensing - Battle to the Death

The government announced that they will only license 3 blocks of 10mhz spectrum. In short, this means that only 3 carriers will be able to obtain licenses necessary for 3g services. Pakistan has 5 carriers. Assuming no international companies enter the market, who do you guys think will lose? It should be safe to assume those that don't obtain a license will eventually leave the market.

My predictions are that Warid will integrated Wateen somehow, which leaves 4 more carriers. Zong just got into a long term agreement with Man.U and China mobile definately has no intention of leaving it behind. Mobilink too probably has surplus cash floating around thanks to orascoms global merger. Ufone is backed up by PTCL and Etisilat and its position as a national carrier would force it to obtain a license. Ufone could however integrated PTCL CDMA bands more though, but it would be required to adopt special phones then. Lastly, we are left with Telenor. Though it complains of low ARPU, the company has a quality network and many corporate users use their edge sticks. It would not be logical for them to skip on the bidding.

So what do you guys think? Exciting times are ahead.

High license costs means 3G will be expensive, meaning slow consumer adoption, thus meaning existing companies aren't very keen on 3g. The govt. is selling licenses means companies will buy them, but actual rollout looks like it will be slow, messy and expensive.

Ufone has already gone the way of PTCL - they've got a phone, advertised as Ufone's 3G phone (forgot the name, but the ads were floating on TV sometime back), so I'm not sure they'd venture out on 3G/GSM and 3G/CDMA (kinda pointless - but they'd cover teh market fairly well if they did... I personally doubt they would).

Telenor and Mobilink:

Mobilink has the highest blackberry customers, so it'd be natural for them. Besides, why would they undertake a 3G swap at their base stations? (well - news reports say that they began the swap)

Telenor's network is (supposedly) future-proof. They'd have to be dumb to not switch over to 3G. And many times before, there were reports that all but one operator were hesitant to go to 3G. Guess who that single operator was. (word is, on the 3G swap, that Telenor already had done it long ago, with contracts from NSN and a few others or something like it).

The third license: either Zong or Warid. Frankly, I don't know. Warid's GPRS network is actually very fast (just as good as Telenor's) but they lack the coverage Telenor provides. Zong's internet quality - in my experience in Islamabad and Rawalpindi - stinks. nuff said!

At the end of the day, it depends on (with MY rankings in brackets)

1) the number of subscribers you have (Mobilink, Telenor, Ufone, Warid, Zong)

2) your coverage (Mobilink, Telenor, Ufone, and a draw b/w Zong and Warid - not sure whose coverage is better)

3) the amount of cash you're willing to invest (Telenor, and the rest - it's anyone's guess)

4) your customer base (urban centers - I don't know whose is higher so I'm not going to rank), and

5) your network capacity (not the same as network coverage, mind you) (Telenor, Warid, Ufone, Zong, and.... does Mobilink qualify for being ranked in here?)

My two cents. Feel free to disagree.